Archived Musings
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March 1, 2009
I decided that it was time for an overhaul. I've been at version 3.01 for quite a while and since I'm currently unemployed I figured why not do some house cleaning. I hope that you like the new version and that the format isn't too ...
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July 10, 2008
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Circumstances - Rush; Hemispheres
Headline from the Associated Press today:
Bush readies pen; Relishes signing wiretap bill.
Relishes? What newsworthy purpose does that adjective serve in that lead? It's as if the AP envisions the President sitting at his desk, drooling with rabid anticipation while waiting for the bill to arrive from Congress. The article starts:
President Bush is poised to sign a bill that overhauls the bitterly disputed rules on secret government eavesdropping and grants immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the U.S. spy on Americans in suspected terrorism cases.

How incredibly misleading. Allow me to do some simple research; something that the AP appears reluctant to do. A simple Google search on FISA can easily take one to the US Code in question:
§ 1802. Electronic surveillance authorization without court order; certification by Attorney General; reports to Congressional committees; transmittal under seal; duties and compensation of communication common carrier; applications; jurisdiction of court
(1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that—
(A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at—
(i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or
(ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;

Emphasis mine. Taking a look at section 1801 for the definitions:
§ 1801. Definitions
As used in this subchapter:
(a) “Foreign power” means—
(1) a foreign government or any component thereof, whether or not recognized by the United States;
(2) a faction of a foreign nation or nations, not substantially composed of United States persons;
(3) an entity that is openly acknowledged by a foreign government or governments to be directed and controlled by such foreign government or governments;

Nowhere does this Title mention anything about American nationals. The administration's "spying", by way of FISA, in no way targets citizens of the United States. Not that the reporter took any time to research this fact-- that would not mesh with the obligatory anti-Bush bias that the mainstream media has been promoting over the last eight years.
It is no wonder that the MSM has lost much of its credibility. As the title of the musing says, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
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March 6, 2008
There is however a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.
Edmund Burke - Observations on a Late Publication on the Present State of the Nation
No, this isn't a political rant. No, this has nothing to do with the upcoming US presidential elections. And, no, there is nothing about this musing which has any political motivation whatsoever. This is all about patience.
I hate patience. I empathize with Sally in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, when she tells Dr. Finklestein, "But I don't want to be patient." She knows what she wants and she wants it now, even against the doctor's imploring that she isn't yet ready. I am not very good at having patience and that makes it even harder to instill this quality in my daughter. She gets it honest; she, too, is impatient.
It is always said that "patience is a virtue" (and I do so hate that saying!), but in researching quotations to open this essay I found the one selected to be most appropriate for me. A virtue? The online American Heritage dictionary defines virtue as, "Moral excellence and righteousness; goodness." So, we are to understand that having patience is to be morally excellent and righteous. Well, I agree with Mr. Burke: there comes a time when being patient is no longer of moral excellence.
The most recent case in point for your review was during my morning commute today (the result of which has me making this very post. See, I'm not even waiting until get home!). My morning drive in is about an hour. Traffic can be quite heavy, depending on timing, and I hate to be late. Today, I'm just a few minutes behind schedule, so as long as everything keeps moving, I'm happy. Then it happens: main road, three lanes wide and everyone driving at highway speed when, oh no!, it's a police car on the shoulder with his lights flashing. Everyone drives at insane speeds until they get right up to where the cop is, and then they slam on their brakes and we drop from 70 m.p.h. to 40 m.p.h. For cying out loud, the cop already has someone pulled over! He isn't going to suddenly jump into his cruiser and burn rubber to catch you, the one car in the pack of about 40 who are all traveling at the same speed! It's an accident waiting to happen, and fortunately we pass the spectacle without incident. But, now I'm later than I was and my patience with idiot drivers has reached its end.
But wait, there's more.
Now we're past the cop, so everyone tromps on their accelerators to get back up to the speed we were before, except not everyone does so at the same time. Ahead of me, drivers less patient than I (if you can imagine that?) dive in and around slower cars which causes people to again slam on their brakes thus creating a massive, automobile inchworm, as we all accelerate and brake in undulating sequence. Each tap of the brakes increases my time lost and further depletes what little amount of patience I might had drawn up from the depths of my psyche. I completely understand, although I would never condone, road rage.
I want to get to work. I do not want to be late. I want to get off of this stupid highway and away from these morons. Like Sally, I don't want to be patient.
Alas, it is the nature of my being. I have always been thus, and in spite of my efforts over the years, I will always be so. Really, I do try to be more patient and I would like to think that I do better on some days than others. And Lord knows that some days, my daughter severely tries my patience to the point where I wonder if I am her own personal schadenfreude.
Eventually, as I get older, I will have no choice but to slow down and accept things as they come to me. I will find that I am trying to go too fast and that I will miss things if I don't slow down. I will learn how to temper myself.
Just be patient with me.
(Happy Birthday, Mom!)
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August 26, 2007
Adventure is a wonderful thing!
Owl - Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin
Having a two and a half year old child certainly alters the selections of DVDs that are viewed in our house. One of her favorites, Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin, has the whole Winnie the Pooh gang at a loss because they cannot find their friend. Pooh is especially distraught because he feels happiest when "you and me become 'we'" and everything is right in his silly-old bear head. He cannot believe that Christopher Robin left him without saying goodbye-- only leaving a pot of hunny and a note.
The gang takes the note to Owl, the wise sage of the bunch, and sorting through the sticky honey that Pooh inadvertently spilled on it, he is able to make out that their friend desperately needs their help. Muddling through the words, he determines that Christopher Robin is at a place called "Skull", a fearsome and dreadful place. The gang sets out to rescue him, much to Owl's delight, and he breaks out into song about how wonderful adventuring can be; however, he declines to join the group as he ushers them on their merry way ("I salute you," he says, "and those of you doomed to never return, I salute you twice!").
So what does this have to do with me? Well, this past weekend I embarked upon an adventure of my own. As I've stated before, I have been playing the online version of Magic: The Gathering. The company that produces it, maintains an online forum and over the past two years I have "met" quite a few interesting people. A few months ago, it was suggested that we all meet for the weekend near the company's headquarters and tour the facilities.

My wife was quite skeptical about the whole thing, but after some determination on my part, we decided that I could go. This meant a trip to Seattle, Washington which would include an airplane ride with at least one layover. The date was set, and the tickets purchased (I used and off I went!
While on the plane, which due to a crazy delay in Denver (the plane was boarding, but we had no pilot! I volunteered, but was turned down when I said, "How difficult can it be to get to Seattle from Denver? Just go west and when you hit water, turn right."), I got to thinking: here I am, going to a place I've never been, to meet people I've never met, at a time I never thought I'd do so. What an adventure!
It gets better.
One of the players (we're collectively known as beebers) offered to host the event as his house was near the headquarters we wanted to visit. Although he did warn us about the train tracks that run by his house, he never really mentioned that they ran a mere 15 yards from his house. Oh, and that there was a signal planted there which instructed the engineer to wail on the diesel's horn because of the upcoming intersection. Immune to the incredibly loud freight train, our host slept through the 3 trains per hour that passed by the house all night long. I should know; I counted them.
The next morning, on a mere 3 hours of sleep over the past 36 hours, we made our raid on the game's headquarters. Having been warned of our coming, they met us with smiles, t-shirts and other swag before giving us the grand tour. We met quite a lot of the game's team and were well received... until they fed us to their dragon!
It so happened that this was the same weekend as the PAX07 Convention, at which the company had a booth. Not to be outdone by the dragon attack, we showed up the next day at their booth and continued to harass them. Well, we didn't actually harass them, but we did stop by and meet more of the employees that we weren't able to meet (oh, and to score some more swag. I got a Gleemax brain-- how cool is that?)
We concluded the weekend with excellent food (I had a wonderful vanilla milk shake from Tully's-- so good, I had two! I am probably the only one who goes to Seattle, enters a coffee shop and orders a milk shake), some gaming and very good discussions. The trip was a blast and meeting people whom I had only spoken with through game-chats and forums' threads was worth it. Friendships made on-line were solidified in person, and we all promised to try to do this again.
So now I sit, homeward bound on a 737 (with a layover in Vegas!) typing up this experience for you to read. I am on the red-eye and should be landing tomorrow morning at my home destination, hopefully with enough energy to secure my luggage, find my truck and drive back home to a quick shower before I tumble into bed. Sleep should come easily as I will have no freight trains to disturb me (actually, they ran fewer of them as the weekend went on. Either that, or I was too fatigued to be awakened by them).
Perhaps not such a grand adventure by Pooh standards, since I didn't have to rescue anyone. Nonetheless, I am returning home triumphant in that the journey accomplished that which it was set out to do.
Thankfully, no one needed to salute me twice.
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March 13, 2007
What we have here is a failure to communicate.
Captain, Road Prison 36 - Cool Hand Luke
At my new job (see last month's musing), we are tasked with a complicated project with our email servers. You see, our industry requires that certain email passing from our systems must be encrypted for privacy concerns. Not a big deal as we have servers in place to handle that. The trick now is one of our biggest clients wants us to only accept encrypted email from any of their employees-- regardless of what email system that employee, well, employs.
Now, any email we receive from that client's own email system is encrypted, so we've met a portion of their requirement. The rub is that if one of their employees uses an email account (like Yahoo! or Hotmail) that isn't controlled by either party, then that email must be rejected by our servers with a reply email directing that employee to use an encrypted system. Now, it starts to get tricky.
No e-mail getting past me. So, me and the other IT gurus here started pouring over the applications and servers that we already have and are trying to come up with some rule-set that we could program that would do what this client wants. Essentially, if we receive a non-encrypted email, we are to reject it and direct the sender to remit using an encrypted system. My suggestion for that rejection notice was the quote used at the beginning of this musing; unfortunately, it was met with a weak laugh and then everyone's attention returned to the task at hand.
More recently, we had to pass through the dreaded daylight saving time change. Fortunately for me, a lot of the work had already been completed prior to my arrival. I did manage to update an application on a remote server in Alaska and also helped in updating shared calendars which are stored in community mailboxes. I have also helped to automate the process by which we report to management the ungodly amount of SPAM we reject from our various filters and other applications (we receive a total of over 5 million emails each week and more than 90% of those are SPAM -- that's insane!).
Looking toward the horizon, we have a major upgrade from Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 to 2007 that should occupy a lot of man hours to complete. We also intend to get our test lab more in-line with the production environment so that we can actually test the stuff we need to test before releasing it "live." I'm sure that there are other things coming up, but just not on our radar right now because of the urgency of the projects we now have.
Just bein' Cool. What exactly does all of this have to do with me (because we all know that this site is all about me)? Well, it's just a small insight into the types of projects with which I am involved at my new job. Certainly, we have enough to keep us busy, but as all things in large corporations go our clocks are slowed by the inevitable barricades of paperwork and company politics until someone realizes that the deadline fast approaches and then we all practially kill ourselves to complete the project on time. Sure, being busy beats not being busy, but sometimes you just need a little down-time. Time for nothing.
As Luke said, "Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand."
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February 26, 2007
Sometimes it seems like I've been here before.
Incommunicado - Marillion
There are two meanings in the quoted lyric above. The first is that, once again, I am switching jobs (once again, not by my choosing). My job was offically eliminated back in September of 2006, but outstanding projects and other considerations enabled me to stay until the end of February 2007. Fortunately, I was able to find another job which starts today.
The second meaning in the lyric is more about the title of the song: Incommunicado. Mirriam-Webster online defines this as, "without means of communication : in a situation or state not allowing communication". On Friday of last week, virtually all of my ability to communicate was taken from me: my cell phone, pager and laptop. Well, after all, those items did belong to the company so rightfully they were returned. But in this day and age, and me being an IT person, it was surreal to not have any means of instant communication.
I took our daughter out to the mall yesterday. My wife had an event she had to attend, so I felt it might be fun to take the little one out and let her run around a bit. She had been struck again with whatever stomach virus is going around, and by Sunday was antsy to get out of the house. So, away we went.
It was only for a few hours, but in that time I had no way of reaching anyone if there were an emergency. Also, there was no way to reach me. It was liberating to a point, but also somewhat eerie. I had had that cell phone for over six years, and being constantly on-call, it was always with me. I had grown so accustomed to it, that I stopped wearing a watch because the time was always available on the phone's display. Once at the mall for a while, I realized that I had no idea what time it was, and you know what-- it was relaxing. No set schedule to keep, no worry about being out too long and no constant checking the clock. We were able to spend whatever time we wanted at the mall, and my daughter took full advantage of that. Innumerable times we treked back to the center of the mall where the fountain cascaded its water to a lower basin, where she could reach over the wall (with Daddy's help), touch the water and with much glee remark every time that it was, "cold and wet."
We circled the mall several times, both with her riding in the stroller and with her pushing it (and Daddy wishing that he were riding). We ate a hot dog and had some Boardwalk fries. At the dollar store, we bought a mylar balloon with Mickey Mouse on it, which was unusual because she usually chooses the one with Winnie the Pooh. We went to one of the major department stores that anchored the mall and rode the escalator up and down a few times. This was really fun for her because after each trip she'd smile up at me and say, "Do again!"
Finally, it was time to head home, get her bath and put her to bed. She had had a full afternoon, and after it was all said and done, and she was cradled in my arms in the rocking chair next to her crib all snuggled up in her blanket with her thumb firmly planted in her mouth, I asked her if she had had fun at the mall with Daddy. "Yesssh," she said sleepily without removing her thumb, and although it was dark in the room I could hear the smile in her voice. What a day!
So, although I may have been incommunicado to the rest of the world, I was completely in touch with my little girl. Being in the IT industry, I suppose my employment will come and go, much like it has over the last ten years, but the time I am able to spend with my family-- especially my child-- is time much better spent without watching a clock.
As the song quoted above ends, "It's the only way."
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August 25, 2006
Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends.
Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 2 - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
I'm back! "Where'd you go?" I'm sure is the question that has caused elusiveness of sleep for many. Are you ready for the answer? Is the suspense almost too much to bear? Should I shut up and just tell you already?
Ok, fine. The big secret is that I haven't been anywhere. I've just been overwhelmed with the daily activities of our baby girl. Not so much a baby anymore (she's 19 months old!), she walks, talks, eats (and yeah, the end results of eating, too) and is just a joy to have around. Need a hug? She's got 'em. Having a bad day? She'll get you to smile and forgetaboutit. Who knew being a daddy would be this much fun?
I could go on forever, but I won't bore you with the details. You know how it is: get a first-time daddy started on his little girl and he'll never stop. So, instead of that, I would like to dedicate this time and space to get this site back on track... talking about me!
For the past, oh I'd say 10 months or so, I have been off and on involved with the online version of Magic: the Gathering. As in the real-live version, I'm not terribly good at it, but it does help me to decompress after a long, long day (funny note on "decompress": I was telling my wife the other day I needed to decompress, but my brain hiccupped and instead of decompress I said decompose! D'oh. Although, I guess in a molecular level we all spend time continually decomposing? Hmm... maybe a topic for another day as I am rambling enough now as it is). For those who aren't familiar with Magic: the Gathering (MtG), it is a collectable card game that pits two or more players against each other in a dual to the death! Well, not real death. Each player starts each game with 20 life points, and the object is to use your cards (which are different spells) to deal lethal damage to your foe. The cards come in five different colors (some with multiple combinations of those five basic colors) and each color compliments the other in some way-- however, not all colors compliment all of the others. Confused? I thought so. Well, if you want to know more, you can just go here for more info.
What else? Let me see. Oh, I know. I also rebuilt my computer. I decided to take the plunge and invest in a technology I hadn't used before: liquid cooling. Everyone in my family thinks I am totally geeked out now (as if they didn't already think so before?) and I know it is only a matter of time before I get the call to help someone else to move up to this technology. Maybe by that time, the next cool thing (pun intended, too!) will be on the market. It's already in a prototype phase now: ion cooling. Check it out. It's amazing what they're able to do with computer hardware these days!
That's really about all of the news since the last update. As I said, the little girl is taking up a lot of our time, but in a good way. We're making sure to get outdoors as often as we can during the summer, and she loves running around, playing with her big blue ball and going down the sliding board. I know I've got to cherish these moments as they pass much too soon. Today, she's pointing to the car ready to go to day care; tomorrow she'll be asking me for the keys.
That's my girl... the show that never ends.
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October 25, 2005
--Kharmin's daughter's first word.

Wow. Of all of the words in the English language, and with all of the talking we do around our little girl, this is the first word that she actually says? She's been babbling for months, saying "Dah-dah-dah-dah" and so forth, but this was the first actual word she said: "Duck." So, where did that come from?
Well, I was giving her her evening bath before going to bed, and in the tub we have this rubber duck. It's one of those saftey things, that on the bottom shows whether or not the water is too hot before you put the baby in the tub. Well, once she was seated in the tub, I handed her the toy, and said, "duck", to which she responded by repeating the word. Then, she would drop it and pick it back up and say, "duck" again. She did this about four or five times! It was evident to me that this was a deliberate utterance, not some chance muttering. No multiple syllables; just the one: "Duck."
I told my wife about it afterwards, and we decided to give it another day, and see if our little girl did it again. So, fast-forward to the next evening. My wife was giving our daughter her bath, while Dad (me) was taking care of other chores, and when she was handed the rubber duckie, she grasped it and said, "duck."
That clinched it. Two different opportunities, with two different parents, she performed her newest trick. We congratulated her, and encouraged her to keep it up (which after a few tries apparently it loses it's appeal, for she gave up and started chewing on a wooden spoon), all the while silently thanking ourselves that she hadn't picked up some other, forbidden word, to be her first. I'm not sure about my wife, but I was a little jealous that the toy duck emerged as the first word over "da-da" for daddy.
Alas, it seems that in this, too, our daughter has her own agenda.
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October 20, 2005
[Homer drives into a preserved deer statue]
Homer: D'oh!
Lisa: A deer!
Marge: A _female_ deer...
--from The Simpsons, episode #517

To me, this is probably one of the top classic lines from The Simpsons. Rarely, now, do I really laugh at their antics, having grown older and have already been exposed to much of what this dysfunctional family has done. Some scenes still get a chuckle, or a snort, but not often do I get a good laugh. This was a clever scene with just the right dialogue. But as in most things, it's only funny when it happens to someone else.
This morning, I had a close encounter of the thunk kind (not to be confused with Close Encounters of the Third Kind) with a deer. Still dark, with dawn easing its way into the eastern sky, traveling in rush-hour traffic, a small deer leapt to meet its fate with the front of my truck. At close to 70 m.p.h., the odocoileus virginianus didn't have much of a chance. Oh, it turned away at the last moment, but physics being what they are, it just wasn't fast enough.
At least I was driving my truck, and not my wife's Ford Escort.
The damage will certainly be enough for a claim with my insurance company, but on initial inspection (in the pre-dawn light at the side of the road) it didn't look too bad. Had the deer been larger, it might have impacted the bumper higher which would have caused the airbags to deploy-- which in that rush-hour traffic would have made for an interesting (and educational) ride. Instincts being what they are, I admit that I did hit the brakes, but probably not as hard as I could have. We're told not to hit the brakes because that will cause the front of the vehicle to dip down, thus increasing the potential for more serious damage: there have been instances of deer rolling up car hoods and smashing into or even through windshields! Had I really hit the brakes, I doubt it would have come up to my windshield, but by not dipping the front too much lower, I probably prevented the bulk of the impact from deploying the airbags.
So, now I get to deal with the insurance company, and coordinate a time and place to have the truck repaired, and work out my commute with my wife since we'll be short a vehicle for a day or two. Sure, it's a hassle, but no one got hurt (other than the deer, of course), and the damage can be fixed. That's the end of the story, but not the end of this musing...
The deer population in the eastern United States is getting out of control (see article here). Nature activists protest controlled hunts which would cull the herd of deer down to a more manageable size. The problem isn't just on the highways, either. Deer overpopulation affects airports, farmers and other species of animals. To be sure, there is some validity to the argument that the rapid increase of suburban sprawl increases the rate of encounters with humans and deer, but again with controlled hunts this can be managed.
I have nothing against deer. Heck, we've had a family of seven deer running through our rural property ever since we moved to the country, and I expect to see them there. The one that I struck was closer to the metro area where I work. But one thing we've noticed in the 3½ years we've lived in our home: there seems to be no set life-cycle for the deer in our area. It used to be that you could expect to see more at one time of year, and in the spring, you'd see the babies. Now, we see the small deer all year around. This tells me that the population of deer isn't just growing in predictable phases. We have new deer entering the environment throughout the year. With hunting only allowed during certain weeks, and with hunters limited to the number they can kill, the deer are quickly outpacing the ability for their natural surroundings to sustain them. Deer are only so smart... and they will go to wherever they can find food. With more deer than the land can support, they range farther out from the dense forests, and into our neighborhoods.
Too many traffic deaths and injuries are caused by this menace. Too much money is spent on insurance claims (vehicular as well as health). Too many farmers are losing crops to deer, which causes the price of food to rise. Let's just face it: there are too many deer. The time has come to ease the restriction on hunting deer, and to open up more controlled hunts to ease the burden that an overpopulation of deer is causing.
It's too late for me and my truck, but without some immediate measures, I'm sure it will happen again, and I would much rather someone hunt them with a bow or gun than me with my truck.
UPDATE: A University of Missouri study is mounting cameras on the heads of deer to study deer-car collisions. We're actually paying for this?

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October 10, 2005
Someday you will ask me what's more important: my life or you. I'll answer my life, and you'll walk away never knowing that you are my life.

Today, my lovely spouse and I celebrate our marriage. Thirteen years! It's hard to imagine that someone would tolerate me for so long. Seriously, though, I cherish my wife, for she indeed is my life. I have mused on this topic once before, so I won't repeat it here.
In honor of this most fateful day, I will touch on a few happy thoughts from the last baker's dozen years (in no particular order):
  • Our first (of several) trip to Harper's Ferry, West Virgina
  • Riding the Rebel Yell at King's Dominion
  • An interminable trip to and from the Georgia Renaissance Festival (ok, so maybe not an entirely happy thought)
  • Getting "re-married" at our local Renaissance Festival
  • Our honeymoon trip to Italy
  • Buying and moving in to our first home
  • Our trip to Albequerque, New Mexico, by way of Denver, Colorado [insert favorite Bugs Bunny line here]
  • Watching Independence Day fireworks at Columbus, Ohio
  • Traveling to Okefenokee Swamp from Savannah, Georgia in a Dodge Neon
Before I continue, it seems that we've done a bit of traveling, doesn't it? Why do these memories stand out? Because our lives have been one adventure after another, and the best adventures I've had have been with my wife. That we enjoy each other's company so much makes traveling together that much more special. How about some other happy thoughts? Ok:
  • Learning how to play card games like canasta, pishte, cribbage and so on
  • Spending time, poolside after work at our apartment
  • Driving around to all of the yard sales and flea markets within a 10 mile radius from the house
  • Picking pumpkins for Hallowe'en
  • Playing miniature golf in Hilton Head, South Carolina
  • Hiking in various places on the Appalachain Trail
  • Decorating our first Christmas Tree together
There are so many more memories I have over the last thirteen years... but most of them are private ones for just the two of us to share. With the baby now, we probably won't be able to do anything so extravagent as in the past, like traveling to Italy, but I don't mind.
Just so long as I can spend some more time with this terrific woman who married me... who is my life.
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September 14, 2005
For men at most differ as Heaven and earth,
But women, worst and best, as Heaven and Hell.
-- Merlin & Vivien from Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King

Not even a year old yet, and already our little girl exhibits this very contrast. She's such the cute angel, smiling and laughing, being the perfect little daughter every father would want. But then, she is somehow transformed, shedding her innocence as a snake's skin, becoming mischevious and conniving in her quest to get her way, leaving a trail of confusion and distress in her wake.
She's an imp. Someone has abducted my child and replaced her with this small, devil-kin terror. Before you question my sanity and my love for my child, allow me to explain.
More times than not, our little darling is the most hugable, lovable, warm-n-fuzzy feeling baby one could ever have. Of course, my opinion might be a tad jaded (only slightly, I'm sure), but suffice it to say that she is good-natured, happy and content. However, there are times when she is the complete opposite, refusing to eat, tossing her toys with reckless abandon and generally a handful for mommy and daddy to control. She sticks her tongue out and then grins; she pushes toys away that you hand to her only to cry until you hand it back; she complains to be held, then wiggles so much that you have to put her back down. It can seem to be a never-ending cycle! She wants mommy only to then want daddy, and back and forth. This isn't only constrained to the parents... no! She even acts this way with the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and everyone else.
But what really got me enough to write this musing is what happened earlier this week at day-care.
Our girl had been sick for about a week, so she had been out of day-care, pampered and cared for by a collection of family members. We were worried that not only was her schedule knocked out of whack, but that she would be overly needy with the providers at day-care when she returned. Apparently, there was no problem. Mommy checked on her during her lunch hour, and when she arrived, she found all five of the other infants (all boys except for our baby) were crying. Our little girls was imitating them, almost teasing them in their time of misery. And she was grinning and laughing while she was doing it! Later, when mommy came to pick her up for home, she was informed by one of the teachers that our daughter had been pulling the other babies close to her, and then pulling their hair! I could only shake my head, knowing that it couldn't have been our child; it had to be the imp.
I'm hoping that this isn't a precursor for things to come. Granted, I come from a family of practical jokers (my birthday is April 1st, remember?), but this is going overboard. She's not really old enough to know better, and too young for us to punish, so we just grit our teeth and work our way through it.
Maybe it wasn't such a good idea for her to watch Dirty Harry movies with me when we brought her home?
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May 19, 2005
Darth Vader: If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke: He told me enough. He told me you killed him.
Darth Vader: No. I am your father.
Luke: No. That's not true. That's impossible.
Darth Vader: Search your feelings you know it to be true.
Luke: Nooooo. Nooooo.
-- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Happy Sith Day!

If you have been living under a rock for the last month or so, then you haven't heard about the latest Star Wars movie opening today, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. If you're like me, though, you've been anticipating this movie ever since Darth Vader uttered those immortal words above. Fans throughout the world have been waiting to learn just how it was that Luke's father became the Rebellion's worst nemisis. The talk for years was whether or not this was true: was Vader really Luke's father? If for no other reason, Episode VI begged to be made just to answer that question.
And now, the long awaited prequel has arrived to answer the question that lingered after Return of the Jedi was released: how did it happen?
I remember well the summer of 1977. The closest theater to our house at the time was about a half-hour away. We loaded up in the car, and headed out with showtime listings in hand. It was my first experience of standing in line to see a movie.
I was quite young at the time (not yet a teen-ager), and to stand in a line for longer than the actual length of the movie was unheard of! But it was well worth the wait. I had never seen anything like it. I can still remember the opening sequence, with the scrolling text and slow pan down from the starfield to the horizon of planet Tatooine. And then, the small ammbassador space ship being chased by the massive Imperial Star Destroyer. The ship was huge! The action intense! Next was the capture of the smaller ship, and the boarding of the Stormtroopers... then Vader. His black garb in stark contrast to the white Stormtroopers, the smoke and the light-colored interior walls. He spoke no words; he only surveyed the damage done by the Stormtroopers, and with just the sound of his breathing apparatus, he waded through the defender's corpses.

What a rush!
As we all know by now, the heros win the day, and the evil Darth Vader escapes in his damaged TIE fighter only to regroup and reassert the awesome strength and power of the Empire in Episode V. By the end of Return of the Jedi, our hero has grown up, achieved his goal (
I'll never turn to the dark side...I am a Jedi, like my father before me
), and set all things right in the universe.
And so it was, but the backstory still needed to be told. Back in the 70s and 80s, I read every magazine and novel I could get my hands on to know more of the stories and the characters. I have a copy of the Star Wars comic book (issue #1!) still in my meager collection. From stories and rumors, we all knew how Vader became Vader, but until the prequels, we didn't really know who he was before he became Vader, or even what caused the transformation. Sure, Obi-Wan gives us a hint in Episode V (). Yeah, I agree that this was a weak explaination. We fans wanted more! And with the release of Episode III, we now have our answers.
Older now, I haven't the urgent drive or desire I had in my youth for long standing vigils, curb-side at the local cineplex. I already know the characters, the plot and the resolution, so I can wait for the waiting lines to die down. The anticipation of the inevitable battle between Anikan and Obi-Wan is the climax of the prequels (as was the battle between Luke and Vader in Episode VI). Even so, these movies still hold a great deal of appeal to me. Some have criticized how Episodes I and II are more dumbed down than Return of the Jedi (ewoks -- need I say more?), and that the story isn't as well written, not to mention awkward dialogue. These points may have some merit; however, to me I encompass the story as a whole and how the parts each pertain to the others. I, too, could have done with a less annoying Jar-Jar Binks, and the unrealistic manner in which Anikan grows up, but Padme still appears to be the same age (and then they fall in love? Ugh. C'mon, George, you should've cast a new actress for Padme like you did for Anikan). But the action carries the story along, and with the release of Revenge of the Sith, all of the parts will finally fall into place.
Now, if we can just get those last three movies made, we'll have Mr. Lucas' complete vision.
You can always try your hand against the dreaded Sith Lords.
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May 17, 2005
If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers. --Edgar W. Howe

Yesterday was the first day of day-care for our daughter. We all thought that her mother would have a really hard time dropping her off, but our girl just snuggled up and went to sleep when she arrived. No crying, no tantrums. Just content to go back to sleep. The center is close to my wife's office, so she was able to visit with our daughter during her lunch break, and everything seemed ok.
Since our girl is only four months old, this transition shouldn't be too traumatic. I think the worst part for her is us waking her up at 5:00am-- talk about turning the tables! Just when she's sleeping so well, mom and dad mess up her schedule. It may take a couple of weeks, but she should get the hang of the new routine.
I went yesterday and today for the drop-off, and must say that the place is rather nice. It has key-card security, and there are only two infants to each teacher. Our daugher has her own cubby in which to put things, and a drawer in a small dresser for spare clothes. The kids have daily and monthly goals that are set out for them, including learning to reach and grasp for things, and listening to a variety of music. They will work on face recognition, and other things like shapes, colors and whatnot. They even took a brief stint outside yesterday to enjoy the spring weather. At the end of the day, we get a written report as to how much she ate, how many naps she took and for how long, how her disposition was and all sorts of things like that.
Naturally, as parents we worried all day about her. Was she eating enough? Is she being fussy with her new teacher? Is she napping? Is she too hot? Is she too cold? Is she drooling everywhere? It's enough to drive one batty with all of the worry. Finally time came to pick her up, and she was lying on the mat on the floor, staring at the ceiling and chewing on her fingers-- just like she does at home. Her eyes lit up, and she gave Mommy a big smile, as my wife scooped her up. Crisis over, we packed her in the car seat, and headed home.
All in all, we think it will be good for her, because she is getting exposed to new people and new teaching. However, that doesn't help to fill the void inside when we drop her off in the morning, all bundled up and drowsy. Like kids at Christmas, we can hardly contain ourselves during the hour drive home so that we can play with her.
And we are well rewarded with smiles, jabbering and a gob of drool.
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May 10, 2005
Lowes, blows. --Kharmin

Ok, it's official. Lowes Home Improvement stores not only suck; they blow. Now, before you start flaming me about how I'm wrong, let me explain the last few shopping experiences I've had with Lowes Home Improvement.
Let me take you back to 2002. It was the dead of winter, and we were in the final throes of an ice storm. We woke up Wednesday morning with no electricity, and where we live, it was quite chilly. We went to work, and returned home; still no power. Thursday morning, with flashlight in hand, I called the local power company. When I told them what area I lived in, the customer service representative said, "Ohhhh... you're in that area." Not very encouraging. "We don't expect to have power restored in your area until Sunday."
Sunday? Crap. Now, we had to scrounge around for a generator. Imagine my good fortune when I found (online) that the local Lowes Home Improvement store carried generators. I called the store to verify that they had them in stock, and was told that there were four left. I immediately placed an order, and arranged to pick it up after work. How great is that?
When we arrived to pick up our generator, for which we had already paid, the employees were unable to find any more on the shelf. They hadn't tagged it for us to pick up. After waiting for more than a half an hour, they found one that was on some other customer's cart! Since we had already purchased it, they had to take it away from the other customer and give it to us.
Fast-forward to 2004. I placed another order on will-call for a kitchen faucet, again to pick up after work. Again, I waited for at least a half an hour until someone from plumbing could find one and bring it to the front counter. Hell, I could've walked to the plumbing department and pulled the thing off of the shelf myself, but the whole reason I put it on will-call was so that I could come in, pick it up, and leave. How hard is it to pull something aside and tag it for a customer? I've worked retail, and I can tell you that it ain't rocket science!
Ok, now to the piéce de résistance. You can read about our Mother's Day issues with the water in our house, which I wrote about yesterday. As a result, our hot water heater died. We decided that we wanted to get one as soon as we could, and discovered that Lowes would be able to install it today! The caveat was that someone had to go to the store and fill out the paperwork before noon. My wife, still home with our daughter, packed everyone up and ran to the store to get the ball rolling.
Well, imagine this: they screwed up the paperwork at the store, and didn't send out their contractor like they had said they would. My wife had to call multiple times to just get someone to finally admit that they screwed up, and that no contractor would be coming as they had promised, and was indicated on the contract my wife had signed. Then, she was told that although they had promised to have someone out if the paperwork were filled out before noon, that there was no guarantee.
So, here we are, yet another day without hot water. After several more calls to the store, and speaking to the manager-on-call, they told us that the contractor would be out tomorrow between 12:00 and 1:00pm. Folks, that's 24 hours after the paperwork was filled out. The reason we went with Lowes was because they could install it on the same day; everyone else would be the next day, which is where we now find ourselves anyway. We demanded a discount only to be denied one because, again, it "wasn't guaranteed." With the way we had been put out, waiting around for someone to call, and it being their error, you'd think a large, chain-store could afford some restitution in the name of good customer service. Apparently not. Apparently, they're only interested in our money.
I don't normally set out to disparage a business, and am usually good about giving companies the benefit of doubt, because I have worked retail and I know that sometime, stuff happens. However, the customer is the reason that the store is in business, and by practicing good customer service a company assures itself of staying in business. Regardless of my opinion, and this musing here, I'm sure that Lowe's won't be losing any money, and will continue to do business as it has been.
But they won't be getting any more of my hard-earned money.
Update: the contractor came in around 11:00am and finished the job in an hour! Great guy, according to my wife, and quite professional. Still, they're just the contractor, and their performance has no impact on my feelings toward Lowes.
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May 9, 2005
"My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch." -- Jack Nicholson

Happy (late) Mother's Day, to all mothers out there. I apologize for making this an after-the fact entry, but maybe after I explain, you'll understand.
First, let me say that our little girl's mom had an o.k. Mother's Day. No breakfast in bed or anything like that-- although, we did go the the local town's Main Street and had breakfast at their little cafe/diner. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
On Friday, we discovered that we had a leak in the water pipe leading to the water heater. It was a small leak, so we didn't get flooded out or anything; however, it was most persistent. We ended up shutting off the water main, and draining all of the water lines in the house. This discovery was made late in the evening, so we were in pretty good shape for the night.
Saturday, we woke early, and set out for my brother-in-law's house in the next state-- about an 1½ hour drive. I was going to be setting up a network in his office, so we decided to leave the water off, so we wouldn't have to worry about the leak getting any worse during our absence. We packed to stay overnight at his home, baby and all. Once again, I'm glad I have the truck!
Well, the network installation took all day, and our little girl fussed all day for being in a strange environment. We decided to bag the overnight trip, and take her home to sleep in her own crib. I tried to perform a repair on the pipe, but after a long day and all that, it didn't work out.
Sunday, we headed into town for Mom's breakfast. All of the patrons at the cafe "ooh-ed" and "aah-ed" over our baby, and she soaked it all up, gifting everyone with smiles. We called my sister-in-law, who lives about 20 minutes away, and explained our lack of water situation. It was decided that we would all pack up and head to her place for dinner and much desired showers. Before heading over there, we stopped at the local hardware store for some pipe-repair compound, and then shopped at the best SuperFresh around (I love this store, too!). We returned home, and I tackled the pipe with the compound, and let it stand for more than the recommended time. While I waited, I moved the remainder of the wood from off of the corner of the driveway, and stacked it behind the house for next winter.
Dinner at my sister-in-law's place was Popeye's spicy chicken! We had a coupon for buy 11 pieces, get 11 free... can they really make money that way? Showered, fed and relaxed on the deck was the best feeling we'd had all weekend. Even our little one got a bath, which she still seems to enjoy. Finally, by the time it got dark we made it back home.
So, you see, it was a long, drawn-out weekend, full of so many time-consuming variables that there was just no time to finish this Mother's Day update. What, you may ask, has all of this to do with the opening quote from Mr. Nicholson? Absolutely nothing. I just liked it. It is so Nicholson.
I hope that all mothers out there had an enjoyable Mother's Day. Despite all of our problems and traveling around, my wife assures me that she enjoyed hers. I hope so, because the actual day differed so much from what I had envisioned for her. She told me that she still doesn't feel much like a mother yet, but that perhaps she would feel more so once she gets that first macaroni necklace, made by our baby's own two hands.
At least I know what to get for her next year!
Also, Happy Birthday to my brother! He is, once again, four years older than I. =P
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April 1, 2005
"The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year." --Mark Twain

To those who know me, it is no real surprise that April 1st is my birthday. Everyone who didn't know (but do now) says, "Well, that explains a lot." I know that such comments are really meant in jest, but after so many years, and so many birthdays, it kinda gets old. I won't say how old I am, but suffice it to say that although I am not yet Over the Hill, I am starting to see beyond the summit.
Having survived this many years so far, you can imagine that I have seen just about every April Fool's Day gag known to man. Sure, it was cute when I was a kid, because I would be suspicious of just about every birthday present I was given, every card I opened and every phone call I received. In retrospect, though, it was rough. All of the other kids had "normal" birthday parties, "normal" birthday presents and "normal" birthday cakes (how many years do I have to sit through those stupid gag candles that re-light themselves? They weren't funny anymore after the third time!). I used to hate my birthday. It sucked to be the one everyone was pulling jokes on. I mean, c'mon-- it's my birthday for crying out loud and I hated it.
Then, one year, while visiting my grandparents for Easter (which also coincided with my birthday), my Granddad told me that March 31 wasn't his real birthday. He told me this secret-- for just the two of us to share-- that April 1st was his real birthday, but when I was born, he had his birthday legally changed to March 31st, so that I would have my special day all to myself.
Wow. I couldn't believe it! Someone actually did something to make my birthday extra-special, and it wasn't some kind of prank. Unfortunately, I didn't get to know my Granddad that well, due to distance, his early illness and subsequent death. I will never forget that he did this special thing just for me... even in later years when it turned out that it wasn't true.
His birthday really was on March 31st. When I learned this fact, I was old enough to understand why he had lied to me about our special secret. He knew how much I hated the tricks, pranks and practical jokes, and he made up his story just to give me what my birthday was supposed to be-- an extra-special day just for me.
Since that time, I have looked on my birthday with a new perspective. I don't mind the jokes and tricks so much anymore. Heck, my birthday is more special because of them... everyone else just has "normal", boring birthdays. It becomes more of a challenge, now, for my friends and family to find new ways to play jokes on me on my birthday, especially since I am wiser now than I was so long ago. One year, my wife tried to fool me with a birthday cake made out of meatloaf with mashed potatoes as icing. She decorated it all up with candles and everything. It almost fooled me-- almost. I'm sure that in the coming years, she will continue to look for more subtle pranks to try and fool me. I know that she'll teach some of them to our daughter, and I may allow some of those to fool me. Who knows?
Happy Birthday to me.
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March 2, 2005
I, ________, take you ______, for my wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
Catholic marriage vows

I absolutely love my wife.
Things were quite hectic around the house during Valentine's Day, so I wasn't able to update the site with some mushy, emotional love-filled musings, so you'll just have to bear with me on this one.
Both my wife and daughter have been out-of-town this week, visiting with Grandma, and it has given me a lot time to reflect on just what they do for me in my life. Even though they are only a phone call away, there is an emptiness that the term void just doesn't describe well enough. Sure, the house is creaky and spooky at night, but their absence is more striking.
I especially miss my wife. Together, we are an unbeatable team, and I don't mean just in Taboo! There is nothing that we cannot accomplish together, and she has taught me that. I admit that sometimes I give up too easily, but she's always there with love and encouragement. Together, we have put ourselves into stable, secure jobs, a house on more land than I can mow, two vehicles in the garage, a high speed Internet connection, and now a beautiful baby girl. What more could a man want?
A great cook? Got it. A wonderful mother? Got that, too. A beautiful smile and infectious laugh? In spades. How about a best friend? I couldn't imagine living my life with anyone else by my side.
She tolerates me, laughs at my jokes (most of 'em anyway; the really bad ones just get a roll of the eyes), supports me when I'm down, cures me when I'm ill and gives me everything I could possibly need... which is no small feat, as I can sometimes be a 24x7 pain in the rear.
But, above all, she makes me a complete person. Without her, a trehugeuos (that's temendous + huge + humungous all in one word) part of me is missing, and I suffer for lack of her presence. Without her, each day is a trial. Without her, I am lost.
In this day and age of marriages that last a week (heck, or even 55 hour marriages, as in the case of Brittany Spears!), people are amazed that we have been together so long, and are still so happy. Granted, it does take work to make a marriage last; however, for us the work seems second-nature. We share a lot of things in common, but we also have unique interests which add spice to our lives, and we support each other in those things. I may never become a famous published fiction-writer to which she aspires, but she may never toss a ton-80 either... of course, stranger things have happened. She did teach me HTML which allows me to write this stuff.
But getting back to the original point of this musing: I love my wife. She is the most beautiful and single most important person in the world to me, and I would do anything for her. Perhaps that sounds trite, but it is the plain and simple truth.
I am honored and humbled to be married to her.
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January 31, 2005
"Every citizen made a choice today, either to participate in the elections or not to participate. That decision, in itself, is a demonstration of freedom and democracy."
First Lieutenant Nathan J. Braden with the 1st Marine Division
"...when Iraqis were asked — hours before polls opened — if they were going to vote, "they looked at you like you had three heads. 'Of course we're going to vote,' they responded, 'It's our duty.'"
Captain Carrie Batson, with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) near Najaf
Quotes from a National Review Online column by W. Thomas Smith, Jr.

This historic event in Iraq cannot be summed up in simple words. As far back as many of us Americans can remember, the right (and some say duty-- I agree), to vote and to elect our representative government has always existed. We cannot recall a time where we weren't able to do so (our first presidential election was in 1789!). Today, if someone were to tell us that we could no longer vote for our government, and were being forced to live under a tyrant's rulership, would we really believe them?
Of course not.
Once a democratic, representative government comes into being, and people enjoy the freedom of choosing their leadership, they will never allow that to be taken away. We would fight to the last to keep our freedoms, and it is no wonder to me that the Iraqi voter turnout was so high, even in spite of all of the threats of violence to the Iraqi people.
In his 2005 Inaugural Address, President George W. Bush showed that we Americans understand the inherent value of freedom, and what it can do for humankind:
There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.
The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities.
The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it.

The Iraqi people have shown the world that ready or not, they are willing to risk their lives for freedom. Like the first quote of this musing says, even choosing not to vote is a democratic choice. People who live under a dictatorship are frequently told for whom to vote, and when, and if they don't vote (even though the outcome is predetermined) grave consequences would follow their inaction. This is tantamount to a POW being forced to sign a confession of false actions of aggression against his captors, just to stay alive one more day. I'm not intending to belittle the experience that POWs have had by way of comparison, but I think you get my point.
Occupational forces were in Japan and Germany for years after WWII, and during that time often came under attack. These attacks against coalition forces in Iraq are not insurgency attacks; rather they are terrorist attacks, because their purpose is only to terrorize, deflate, discourage and undermine the poplulation's will to embrace freedom.
The definition of insurgent is: one who acts contrary to the policies and decisions of one's own political party, and clearly, the barely organized resistance against coalition forces is not from a bunch of people who are acting contrary to policies and so on. On the other hand, terrorism is defined as: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. It should be crystal-clear what is going on in Iraq, insofar as the attacks on freedom and democracy are concerned. These are terrorist acts, not defiant acts of insurgency, and the sooner that the world realizes this (and ceases their biased animosity toward the U.S. and allies in Iraq), the healthier life will be for the Iraqi people their new nation-state.
But I digress. In this historic time, we should be celebrating the human freedom which is beginning to take root in Iraq (and by extension the Middle East). Marked in the annals of time, January 31, 2005 will figure almost (if not more) as prominently as September 11, 2001 as a world-shaking event. The people in Iraq have waited for more than a generation to even hope to be able to voice their opinion and vote for their government, without fear of reprisal.
God bless 'em.
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January 25, 2005
"Try and get some sleep."
Boy, I can't count the number of times I heard that statement in the last two weeks! See, on January 11, my lovely daughter was born. But, before I get into all of that, let me go back a day first.
We went into the hospital on Monday the 10th, in preparation for what was to be a forced labor and eventual c-section birth. Silly, but the doctor had to allow my wife to go through labor for a period of time before he could do the c-section; something about insurance, law suits and such. Of course, that didn't really affect me too much, but my wife had to endure it (she's a great sport!). So, Monday night, the nurses warned us that the next day would be a long one, and that we should, "try and get some sleep."
As if the excitement of our daughter's birth wasn't enough to make us a little giddy, they hooked my wife up with an IV, and two separate baby monitors as well as a blood pressure cuff on her arm. With all of the beeping, buzzing and hourly nurse visits, we were lucky to even close our eyes long enough to think about sleeping. Each visit by the nursing staff (I should interject here and say that the staff at the hospital was terrific!) ended with, "try and get some sleep."
Next morning, at 6:00am sharp, the doctor came in and started my wife on the drug which started her contractions. Not too painful at first, according to my wife, but with all of the monitors and nurse visits, we still didn't get any sleep. Once the contractions got a little stronger, my wife had them inject a light narcotic into her IV, and that took some of the pain away. She denies it, but I think that she did doze for about an hour. Not long after that, she took the epidural, and that stopped all of the pain. Again, though, everyone kept telling us to, "try and get some sleep."
Late that afternoon, the decision was made to proceed with the c-section. Despite their best efforts, my wife just didn't dilate as far as she needed to, and it didn't look like she would progress any farther. I was given a set of scrubs, told to grab my camera, and away we went! It was surprising how quickly and efficiently everything happened. Ten minutes after they started, our daughter was born! They scrubbed her down, and gave her the first round of shots she was supposed to get. I was told to grab my camera, and I got some really good shots of her (sorry, for privacy concerns, they won't be posted on the 'net). Then, they bundled and handed her to me, and I got to hold her for the first time.
Birth is an amazing thing, and holding my daughter for the first time is a feeling that cannot be expressed in mere words. After 40 weeks of waiting (and impatiently poking my wife's belly, waiting for a response), it was just unbelievable to hold this little human that we created. So fragile and precious a thing, she dotes on our every move...she has to, as she is totally dependent upon us. Our little miracle.
Returning from surgery to our room, we enjoyed our little girl with her new grandparents. It was hard to say who was more excited: us, or the grandparents. It didn't really matter, though, for she was (is) perfect, and there will be many, many years to share her. After visiting hours, we laid her in her bassinet, and tried as we had been implored by everyone to "get some sleep."
Every move our daughter made, every sound, was scrutinized by us. My wife was unable to get out of bed, so the new Dad got all of the duties. Diaper changes, clothes changes, covering with blankets and cuddling her for comfort (which was by far the best part!). Unfortunately, none of this left much time for sleeping.
For the next three days, our newborn dominated our lives, and at each intermission provided by the ever-present hospital staff, we were told to rest ourselves, for the adventure was just beginning. Graciously, they allowed us to take our daughter to the nursery at night so that we could get uninterrupted sleep between midnight and 6am. After 72 hours of nominal sleep at best, that silly chair/bed convertible thing actually felt good.
So it was, that after three full days, we were able to get that much advised sleep. Friday came too soon, and we were allowed to depart from their care a whole day early, since both mom and baby were doing so well. Little did we know how things would change once we got home.
My in-laws were going to come in for the weekend to help out, but since we arrived home a day early, we were completely left on our own. Still recuperating from the c-section, my wife was pretty much confined to as little activity as I would allow, which put me in charge of the night-shift. I've been told that the first night is usually the worst... and it was.
Almost every hour, our baby cried. Eat, change, eat, change, eat... the cycle seemed endless! I was thankful for the Dirty Harry collection I received for Christmas, and our little one got her first taste of cinematic excellence ("Go ahead, make my day."). Ahhh, nothing like a little reckless abandon and Harry Callahan violence to relax the mind, and ease the tension of a wailing infant. Actually, it wasn't quite as bad as it seemed at the time, and by morning, the in-laws arrived and I was able to turn the care of our baby over to her grandmother, who was quite eager to take charge.
As I headed up the stairs, with the cacophony of noises in and around the bassinet in the living room, I heard by wife ask where I was going.
"I'm going to try and get some sleep," I replied.
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December 23, 2004
"Just because I cannot see it, doesn't mean I can't believe it!"
--Jack Skellington, from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

Poor Jack.
If you are unfamiliar with the animated movie, Jack Skellington (the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town), in effort to bring back the thrill of Halloween, stumbles upon Christmas Town and is stunned by the marvels he sees there. He so desperately wants to feel the happiness and thrill that Christmas brings, that he arranges for the kidnapping of Santa Claus and he and the other denizens of Halloween Town set out to make Christmas their own holiday. Jack dons a Santa suit and flies off in a coffin-sleigh (pulled by skeleton reindeer), delivering toys to all of the boys and girls in the world-- scary toys, that only Halloween Town people know how to make.
But after his initial return from Christmas Town, he studies everything he can about Christmas, trying to understand just what it is about it that excites him so. He almost understands it, when he says the line quoted above, but even then he doesn't quite hit the mark. The only one in Halloween Town who seems to understand, is Sally who is in love with Jack. It isn't until the end of his stint as Santa, that Jack says, "All I ever wanted was to give them something great." In spite of his best efforts, it is only at this point, that Jack really understands what Christmas is all about.
To me, this point is quite clear. Christmas is about giving. Not just a toy, or a gift-card, or even a knitted sweater (do people still give those as gifts anymore?). Giving of oneself, without regard for any compensation or expectation of acknowledgement-- that's the key.
Think of it: God gave his only son... his only son, so that we all might come closer to Him. He did so without concern for whether or not we accepted and believed in Jesus; He did this out of compassion and love for us, even knowing that we would eventually kill his son. This is the kind of giving I'm talking about.
Christmas is the celebration of God's love for us, and a time to reflect not only on His love, but the love we should have for our fellow men and women in the world. Even during times of strife, this celebration can bring the fellowship of man together, face-to-face with their enemies. During WWI, soldiers from both sides on the western front, laid down their weapons and shared this moment of peace.
But getting back to Jack's quote... even some two thousand and some-odd years later, we have no concrete, tangible evidence of the gift given to us from God. Rather, we now must accept what was given based on written accounts and word-of-mouth stories. It is this faith in Him that continues to bind all of us together, and is at the heart of what Jack says. All of the proof we need in God's love for us is in our belief and faith that He has already shown us the extent of that love and compassion.
So, during this time of year, amidst the hustle and chaos that Christmas shopping and traveling can be, take a few moments to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas, and then share that with your family and loved ones. Heck, even share it with total strangers! Do you really need that up-front parking place? Do you really need to be the next one in the check-out line? How badly do you need to push the fella in front of you in traffic?
Give of yourself to others, and in the spirit of Christmas, know that as you embody the true meaning of the season, you will know His love which knows no bounds.
Merry Christmas.
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November 19, 2004
"[Microsoft CEO Steve] Ballmer said Microsoft has special technology that just filters spam intended for [Bill] Gates. In addition, several Microsoft employees are dedicated to ensuring that nothing unwanted gets into his inbox." AP News 11-18-04
You have got to be kidding me? How does one get a job like that? "...several Microsoft employees are dedicated to ensuring that nothing unwanted gets into his inbox.[emphasis added]" How much do you think that they could possibly be paid to spend all day (and maybe a second shift all night, too?) just removing junk email from Mr. Gates' email mailbox?
If there is no other indicator as to the irrational level of SPAM and other junk email than this, then we are truly in the dark when it comes to understanding just how bad it is. Granted, Mr. Gates is a prime target for those anti-Microsoft geeks who want to replace the world's best-selling operating system with some open-source code, but let's be real here. I don't know about you, but with all of the SPAM I receive at home and at work, even with all of the filters in place, I might like the idea of having someone else root through it and just give me the emails I want.
Surely, there must be a market for this? We could take all of those who say that the economy sucks and they can't find a job, and hire them to do it. How much overhead could there be? Just a large warehouse with a fat Internet pipe connection (like, say, an OC-9?) and a bunch of beige-box, no-name brand computers and some cheap furntiture, and you're set. People would pay top dollar to have someone clean their email mailboxes, so there is definitely a profit to be made!
The Washington Post (January 6, 2004) reports:
Since President Bush signed the new restrictions into law Dec. 16 and they went into effect Jan. 1, spam-filtering companies and Internet providers report little change in spam patterns, which have relentlessly marched to higher levels over the past two years. Estimates vary, but spam accounts for roughly 60 percent of all e-mail traffic, with costs to fight it exceeding $10 billion a year.
That's a lot of junk. Imagine your regular postal mail box, and every day-- for 365 days-- pulling out ten envelopes, and six of them are junk mail. This is a broad generalization of the problem, but factor in the ease at which spammers can send out millions of emails every day, and you have sprung from a problem to an epidemic.
Even with the laws that have been passed, and in some cases enforced, laws won't be enough. Many of these spammers operate outside of the United States, and are immune to the laws passed there. So what can be done?
We, as Internet users, must take a stand. Do not reply to SPAM emails which purport to remove you from their list if you do. They'll only sell your email address to someone else, or even sell it to more than one outfit. Do not send mass-emails to all of your friends and family with their names in the TO or CC fields; instead use the BCC field. Some spammers can actually pull address information out of the TO and CC fields, and sell that, too. Do not install applications on your computer unless you are certain that they contain no spyware. Spyware can also harvest your address book for email addresses, and send that information to the culprits without you knowing it (at the bottom of this page is a link to an anti-spyware program that I highly recommend as a non-paid endorser!).
Taking just these few steps can dramatically reduce the amount of SPAM that you receive. There are other third-party applications that work with your email program that can help, too. Naturally, the more expensive ones will probably do a better job.
But, if you have the money, send it to me and we'll start our warehouse, anti-spam company. With the profits made from such a venture, perhaps we could buy Microsoft?
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November 9, 2004
"I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies."
-- Ash from the 1979 classic movie Alien

Last night, for the first time, I felt my daughter kick inside my wife's womb. It wasn't just a little "girly" kick, either-- she almost knocked my hand off! Fiesty little critter, ain't she? I guess it's only natural, seeing as her growth is rapidly outpacing the limited amount of space in which she resides.
Speaking of critters, my wife has not been telling people that she's pregnant; rather, she's been saying that she's "carrying a parasite." Parasite? Granted, the term pretty much defines the current relationship between my wife and daughter, but does she really have to use such a word that tends to lean toward a negative connotation? I don't know about you, but when I hear the word parasite, I immediately think of Alien.
Ugh. I have this to look forward to? (Warning: graphic picture!)
And this is just the beginning. Next, will come the feedings, diaper changings, cuddling, soothing, bedtime readings, disciplining, and so on. Everyone keeps telling me, "Oh, your life is going to change now." Well, of course it is. It would be naïve to think otherwise. If every day were the same, dull events over and over again, then what would be the fun in that?
I'm acutally looking forward to the feedings, changings, et al. It's all part of this grand adventure called life. These are the things that make life worth living.
In just a couple of months, my wife and I will have a small, innocent and beautiful girl to help grow up and find her own adventures. Sure, she'll have her good times and her bad times (and a lot of bad times around age two, I'm told!). She'll look to us for guidance, support and encouragement. We'll look to her for a new perspective on the life that evolves around us that our more experienced eyes sometimes take for granted.
My wife will feed her on age-old recipies handed down through the generations, and together they'll make biscotti, pizelles, cowboy cookies, spaghetti sauce and other Polish and Italian delights.
Me? Well, as soon as she's old enough, we'll watch Alien.
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November 5, 2004
"I am stronger than you."
So spake the Sith Lord I encountered in the Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy demo. I laughed at this statement of obvious cowardice, and with my dual-fisted lightsabers, I sprang at the evildoer. Landing just in front of the dark lord, I slashed twice at him.
He attacked by using his Sith Lord skills, first touching me and draining all of my force powers. Without that, I couldn't heal using my Force Heal skill. No matter, I still had two lightsabers to his one. I sprang again, and he caught me in some electrical attack, which flung me to the ground like a discarded ragdoll. I struggled to rise, and turn my lightsabers back on, and he very neatly sliced me in half.
Huh... I guess he was right. Drat. Oh well, this is why we have SAVE GAME options! =)
It took several attempts, but eventually, I prevailed in defeating this menace to the good side of the force! Yeah, go Jedi--but, wait a minute....! Now two more have appeared from behind some columns. Um, time to run! They taunt me, telling me I have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.
I'd like to say I gave as good as I got, but that would just be a flat out lie. Lesson learned: SAVE GAME after every victory, for now I have to go back and fight the first one all over again.
In the end, though, it is I who am the strongest. All I have to do is QUIT GAME and the forces of darkness are once again vanquished-- erased from RAM, only to lie dormant as a 188MB collection of 1's and 0's on my hard drive, waiting for me to challenge them once more.
As a demo, it isn't bad if you like the whole first-person shooter (FPS) style of gaming. It uses Id technology, which is the same that is used in Doom3. However, the graphics are nowhere as clean as Doom3. The best part, though, is that it's free, and for a half-hour or so of mindless hack/slash PC gaming, it modestly satisfies.
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November 3, 2004
"Congratulations, Mr. President," Kerry said in the conversation described by sources as lasting less than five minutes. One of the sources was Republican, the other a Democrat.
I think that the best part about this victory, is no more Bush-bashing advertisements! All of the vitriol and seething hatred evidenced by the mainstream media and the far left, could not dissuade the American people from voting for our country's safety and security. The American people are not as stupid as the liberals think. We know we're in a difficult war, and we know that to keep our country safe for us and our children (and grand-children!), that we must stay on the offensive against those who would do us harm. This is not only a victory for the American people; it is a victory for the voice of freedom throughout the world!
With other changes in the electorate, the Republicans have garnered a little more strength in both houses of Congress. The biggest advantage to the Bush administration is the defeat of Tom Daschle (D-SD). Clearing the Congressional drain of that hair-clog should open up more opportunity for President Bush's agenda, including moving forward on key federal court judge appointees. That should help keep the Constitution safe, and prevent a liberal agenda from being forced upon the public through judicial decisions instead of representative legislation.
So, now as a country, let's re-unite with our friends, family, neighbors and fellow citizens, and support the President in his second term. Let's take the time to celebrate the end of a long, election year, and use this opportunity to consider what we, as Americans, might be able to do to enhance the quality of life for our fellow citizens and for the welfare, freedom and peace of the world.
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October 29, 2004
"The Senator's willingness to trade principle for political convenience makes it clear that John Kerry is the wrong man, for the wrong job at the wrong time."
US President George Bush - 10/28/04 Dayton, Ohio

After my last entry, I realized that I had gotten away from starting my writings with a quote. So, I found this one from the President's appearance in Dayton, Ohio earlier this week. He was speaking about how the challenger for the presidency has used whatever was politically expedient at the time to further his political aspirations. Specifically, how Senator Kerry has accused our President of incompetence in the light of the missing munitions at the Al-QaQaa facility outside of Baghdad, Iraq; however, the senator used this topic to attack the President without verifying the facts.
It's no small wonder that the accusations against the Bush administration which have no basis in fact keep springing up from the mainstream media, especially CBS. We learn, after the story has broken all over CBS and the New York Times, that these munitions weren't even there when "an embedded NBC News correspondent said the facility appeared to have been emptied by the time U.S. forces got there." (read story here) If it isn't obvious to everyone now that the mainstream media exists only to further the liberal, Democrat party causes, then I don't know how much more blatant they can be and still get away with it.
But enough about politics. The US elections are less than a week away, and from my limited and very improptu polling, most people have already made up their minds.
After this election, the timbre of these musings should be much lighter and more to the original point of this web site... me!
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October 6, 2004 - Highlight on the Draft
The president cannot authorize a Selective Service draft! Congress must first pass legislation which the President must then sign before a draft can take place. For all of the facts, check the Selective Service's own web site (here) which states:
A crisis occurs which requires more troops than the volunteer military can supply.
Congress passes and the President signs legislation which starts a draft.

The resumption of the draft is a myth. Neither the President nor his opponent is interested in starting the draft. Even the Pentagon is against it. So, why is it that we keep hearing in the news that a draft will be imminent if President Bush is re-elected?
Why is Senator Kerry perpetuating this myth? reported on September 22, 2004:
Answering a question about the draft that had been posed at a forum with voters,
Kerry said: "If George Bush were to be re-elected, given the way he has gone about
this war and given his avoidance of responsibility in North Korea and Iran and
other places, is it possible? I can't tell you."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials have been asked
numerous times whether they thought a draft would be necessary to maintain force levels
in Iraq. They have said consistently that they think it is neither necessary nor desirable,
since today's military is built on volunteer service and professionalism.

Note, too, that Senator Kerry isn't alone in his assessment. Former Georgia Senator Max Cleland (also a Vietnam veteran), and Howard Dean have both pushed the draft theory. On September 17, 2004, reports:
“America will reinstate the military draft” if Bush is re-elected and continues
the Iraq War, Cleland predicted, according to an account of his speech by the
Colorado Springs Gazette.

Later, in the same report:
Former Kerry rival Howard Dean, now traveling the country to drum up support for
Kerry and raise money for Democratic candidates, said last week at Brown University
in Providence, R.I., "I think that George Bush is certainly going to have a draft if
he goes into a second term, and any young person that doesn't want to go to Iraq
might think twice about voting for him."

If you want the truth behind the recent draft talk, just turn to the Democratic Party. U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings and U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) are the ones who have introduced the idea to Congress ( Sen. Hollings' bill, as introduced in the Senate, is S. 89. Rep. Rangel's bill in the House is H.R. 163.). It's all right here if people would take the time to calm down from abject panic at what is being reported by the mainstream press, and actually do a little fact-finding and research (Remember "research"? You know, that stuff that they were supposed to teach you how to do in high school and college for term papers?).
As educated and responsible citizens (and registered voters!), we should outright condemn the attacks that Senator Kerry and other prominent democrats have aimed toward this administration regarding the draft. They should be embarrassed to be using such immature scare tactics to secure your vote.
If this is the kind of rhetoric from Senator Kerry and his party, doesn't it make you wonder about all of the other attacks they have made against our President?
*** UPDATE ***
From October 6, 2004 Wire Report:
The House voted 402-2 to defeat the draft bill offered last year by
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. ... Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist ruled out
consideration of a companion bill in that chamber, saying, "To the leadership
of the United States Senate, it's a non-issue and it's one that's not going to be addressed."

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September 30, 2004
"So... now what's it gonna be?
There's someone in an office
who decides what we see.
All things considered
by the time that you could read about it
Yeah, someone's put a spin around it."
Off the TV - Geoff Tate
Can it get any more true than that? Who didn't know how biased the mainstream media is in the United States? After the CBS debacle (Rathergate), it's rather obvious now, isn't it? And knowing that this bias exists, is it any wonder that the McCain-Feingold bill passed, practically stomping the First Amendment into the ground? Once campaign finance reform passed, the way was open for the mainstream media to say whatever they wanted about a candidate, and the candidate would have virtually no recourse!
Of course the mainstream press, being substantially slanted to the left (and I use the term substantially so as not to be too harsh), cannot possibly want George W. Bush re-elected. Not only do they report fabricated documents as legitimate (even when they knew that they possibly were forged), but they continue to talk negatively about the war on terror and in Iraq. They moan and complain that the war is a Vietnam-like quagmire, and that we are doing more to hurt the people in Iraq than to help them.
Nothing could be farther from the truth! You can read here, first hand, the goings-on of my high-school chum in Iraq right now, and the progress that is being made. Don't believe him? How about Iraq's Prime Minister Allawi and the statements he made in the Rose Garden? Just read:
"...Iraqis are getting on with their daily lives, hungry for the new political and economic freedoms they are enjoying. Although, this is not what you see in your media, it is a fact... thanks to a large extent to the generous security and reconstruction funding approved by the United States Congress, work is underway. Oil pipelines are being repaired. Basic service has improved; streets and homes rebuilt; schools, hospitals and clinics reopened. Thousands of Iraqis have new jobs. Salaries have been increased dramatically -- in many cases, five or four times over. Iraq's economy, freed from the stranglehold of a failed Baathist ideology, has finally started to flourish. ... So, really, I call upon the responsible media -- throughout the world, not only here -- to look at the facts as they are in Iraq and to propagate these facts to the international community."
Because of our resolve, millions of oppressed people in Iraq are no longer oppressed. They will hold their first democratic election-- something many of us here take for granted (but that's another posting for another day). And if I hear one more idiot make the "no weapons of mass destruction" argument, then they are truly ignorant of what is going on, and has gone on, in the Middle East.
So, all you Americans, keep this in mind when you head to the polls in November: everything that you have heard from the mainstream press is slanted to favor the Democratic presidential candidate. Do your research. Look at the issues (both foreign and domestic) from every possible angle, and make an informed choice, for to be blindly led by the press into voting for a particular candidate is no better than not voting at all.
Just take your eyes off the TV.
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September 11, 2004

"Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings,
but they cannot touch the foundation of America."
-- U.S. President George W. Bush, 9/11/01

We will never forget the cowardly attacks on America three years ago from today. Out of this, our nation has become stronger, closer and more resolute. This year's election notwithstanding, all Americans can agree that terrorism is now a very real danger.
More recently, we've seen the terrorist attack in Chechnia, where these fanatics took innocent men, women and children hostage for several days, before unleashing their form of "negotiation" on them in the guise of homemade bombs and cowardly shootings in the back (of kids, no less!).
We cannot afford to forget the lessons learned over the last decade of the lengths to which these fascists will go to undermine freedom, democracy and decent lives for the common man; their hatred and lust for oppressive power in the name of their divine guidance drives them to these insane and inhumane courses. It is unfortunate that, like the airplanes on 9/11, these idiots have hijacked what should be a peaceful religion, and now subvert it to their own, selfish desires.
For me, I am tired of trying to sympathize with these terrorists-- the same who use homicidal bombers (let's not kid ourselves; these aren't suicide bombers because they don't just kill themselves-- if only they would!) to try and get the rest of the world to bow before their self-proclaimed superiority. I no longer care to understand why they wish utter and complete destruction on the free world. I only want it to stop, and if that means eradicating these fanatics, then I'm all for it.
There can be no sympathy or understanding for people who would willinging slaughter thousands of non-combatant civilians in the name of their religion, and I don't just say this because they attacked my homeland.
The civilized world should completely condemn these people. The civilized world should work to remove them from their positions of influence and power. The civilized world should never forget the bravery and courage of those who sought to save the victims of these senseless attacks, here in America, and around the globe.
The civilized world should never forget the events of September 11, 2001.
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August 19, 2004
"Incoming transmission; com-link established."
That's kinda catchy, isn't it? It's from Starcraft, and I use it for my
instant messenger program to signal a new IM (I use Trillian to cover all of the IM bases).
I heard it yesterday, as usual, and expected to see my wife, brother or one of many
friends I talk with throughout the day.
Imagine my surprise to see it was Todd-- all of the way from Iraq!
Isn't technology wonderful? I'll try to post excerpts from the log of our chat soon.
He's been promoted, but I've somewhere lost the email that says to what rank. Either way,
that's a good thing. More pay for a job I'm glad he's doing and not me! Go Todd! Go Troops!
Anyway, nothing else much in the way of news. I've added a couple more letters, and have been
assured that more pictures will be en route, as soon as they find time to take 'em. On the home
front, the pregnancy is going well (looking at a Christmas baby), and none of the
typical symptoms have reared their ugly heads. What else?
Oh, right, I picked up my copy of Doom 3, and already a friend of mine has finished it.
Thanks, Tom. Now I have nothing to look forward to in the gaming realm! LOL
At least I can still beat you at darts.
Well, that's about all for this entry. Go ahead, and poke around on the site, and
keep up on the Support our Troops! page... you never know what might show up there next.
Remember to look both ways before crossing the street, and hold your Mommy's hand!
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July 7, 2004
"Good to see you!"
Oh, wow, it has been a while hasn't it? I meant to get to this with more regularity, but with work,
the new pregnancy, and a recent vacation cruise to the Bahamas, I just hadn't found the time until now.
I haven't really added any new content, although there are a couple of new pictures from Todd in Iraq
on the Support our Troops page, and I have included some more excerpts from letters we've received.
Fascinating stuff to hear what all they're doing over there! We're so proud of them all!
Well, for now, I'll return you to your regularly scheduled Internet experience, already in progress.
Please be sure to keep your anti-virus signatures up-to-date and have a working firewall
to keep your computer secure!
Let's be safe out there and be sure to check back soon!
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March 25, 2004
Ok, so "Hello World!"
This is my little corner of cyberspace, and although it probably doesn't amount to much, I will take it.
I mean, what the heck, it's free, so I might as well put something here.
The graphs in the left frame are for your viewing pleasure. I use them at work to keep an eye out on
what all is happening on the 'net. Yeah, maybe kinda hokey, but as Homer Simpson would shrug
and say, "Eh, whatareyagonnado?" I can't help the Geocities windows that show up just about everywhere.
I'm trying to code around them as I'm able, but in the meantime, just minimize 'em.
The Support our Troops link is actually pictures and letters from one of my best friends from
high school who is currently stationed in Iraq. The pictures and letters will be updated
regularly as I receive them, so please check it out for a more personal perspective from the Middle East.
Now that I have staked my claim on my own ever-so-small spot on the 'net, I will periodically update it
and perhaps even add some things that might seem interesting to someone.
After all, this page is all about me-- someone's bound to find something interesting here.
It's just a matter of process of elimination.
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