Aug 31, 2009

The end of another long Monday

I was supposed to go visit a school today. I was supposed to meet their new technology coordinator. As you have probably guessed by now, those things didn't happen.

Turns out, I have been assigned the duty of serving as backup to the backup of the backup person for our target testing scanner. I feel like the fourth runner-up in the Miss America contest. Basically, if four other people can't scan tests, then I get the call. I'm a lot like what Brett Favre *should* be these days.

The plan was that the group from our new testing software company would come in and show us how to scan tests. Easy peasey. Wrong! They came in and had problems getting connected to the data they needed in order to get the scanned results to the correct schools and teachers. Not a problem. We were told it would about 20 minutes and then we'd be good to go. This was around 9:00am.

Fortunately, Jeff (the tech at a local district) came by to shoot the stuff with me for a while. We talked about various projects and project ideas, the state of educational technology, cloud computing, and various other topics. It's always a good time when Jeff comes to visit because I never know what he'll come up with next. As he said when he walked in the door, "I've got some new material..."

At 11:30am, we had lunch, and were told that after lunch, we'd be ready to scan. After lunch, we were NOT ready to scan. "Just a minute or two" we were told. Wrong! About 30 minutes later, we were finally sitting at the computer where the scanning was to take place.

The training was over in 10 minutes.

Yeap, that was it. Click here, pick that, hit scan. Seriously? Seriously. But, at least I now know the procedure should I ever be called upon to fulfill my role as the backup's backup backup! :-)

After the training, I took a drive over to Jeff's office to finish our conversation and to start up a few new ones. Ironically, the one thing he wanted to show me (something new he was doing on his servers), never came around to discussion. Guess we'll save that for another day.

I left after about an hour or so and returned to my office, where the afternoon training had already been concluded. All I can say is that I am glad I wasn't in on that training, though it couldn't have been too bad, since it only lasted about an hour, right?

The rest of the afternoon was killed off by several minor things like answering e-mail and helping a co-worker get her Google calendar to show on her departmental page on our web. It's a very easy task with SharePoint, and we integrated her Google calendar with Outlook, too! Very cool stuff.

Have you ever wondered what a detailed teacher's web page might look like? I have. And, it turns out that I was given the chance to see one that is laid out very nicely. The instructor teaches English and Comp Lit in Oregon, and if I am ever in the position to teach, I would lay my site out a lot like his. Here is his web site, if you are interested.

I like the idea of having separate pages for the different subjects, then a place for resources and biographical info. Each page also has a link to the syllabus and student work, so the current students can get an idea as to what is expected of them.

Nice job.

This past weekend, Shan and I headed to the church to help paint the Children's Church area. It is very outdated with wood paneling on the walls, so we have been helping to revamp it. The new theme is going to be Noah's Ark, with animals on the walls that line the steps and each room representing a different group of animals. The colors in the rooms POP and each room has one central color. For example, one is a very deep, dark blue, another is a BRIGHT yellow and the room Shan and I painted is a glowing-green color. It is not quite the color of a highlighter, but it's not far off either. The green will serve as the background for vines and trees and other greenery for the jungle room.

We have lots of work to do. Eventually, every room will be repainted (there are about 8 or 9 classrooms), the hall will be painted, the stairwell and the downstairs hallway as well. It's a big project, but should look pretty cool when it's all said and done. I should have taken a camera with me to document the progress. I will be sure to carry one with me for now own, though!

I'll keep you updated on the progress. I usually update my Twitter and FaceBook regularly as to what we're doing, but I can "expound and extrapolate" on here. :-) Not that I've really done much of either as of yet.

I've decided to send some of the lyrics I've created over the past years to one of those songwriter sites. I figure one of two things will happen: they'll accept them and I'll hear my songs on the radio one day, or they will laugh hysterically and politely decline my submissions. Either way, it should be entertaining. I'll keep you posted.

Aug 30, 2009

Working on a book!

All it took was one little push. Well, really, one MORE little push. I've written on here several times about my desire to submit one or of my short stories to various magazines for publication, but I am never quite able to pull the trigger.

Well, a fellow baseball card blogger has written a novel (not baseball card related), and that was the spark, the kick, the push I needed. He went the route of, which allows a person to select various bindings, etc for publishing his/her own material. It's a print-on-demand site, so when one orders the book, one has to wait about a week for the printing and binding and then another week for the book to arrive.

I plan to get my current collection of short stories together, have an editor read over them, make revisions, and then pull them into a collection for publication. I will be shouting it to the world when it is finally on the market for purchase, so don't worry about missing the official "release party."

For the past two days, I have been looking over my stories, reading over the notes that my professors made on them, and reworking them as I see fit. It is amazing what a few years of sitting on a hard drive will do to one's stories. I look at them with fresh eyes and generally have one of two reactions: either I am still pretty happy with where they went, or I shake my head and wonder how I was able to earn a Master's Degree with them...

I may or may not become the next great short (or short short) story writer, but once the book is out there, it will be one of the things I can cross off my own bucket list! And who knows, it may even spark more stories to come.

Wish me luck!

Aug 28, 2009

Random Thoughts

For no known reason unto me, I thought about the old 70's anti-littering ad that features a crying native American:

The commercial never made me a 'greenie,' but was powerful enough that I remembered it plain as day. I can't say whether the commercial actually ever stopped me from littering, but even as a kid, I remember thinking how over-the-top it was. And, that is not meant in a good way. I mean that it was a blatant attempt to manipulate the viewer's emotions (though as a kid I did not know the word "manipulate" that I can recall).

There is a lot of hulabaloo lately about the public service commercial (PSA) featuring three girls in a car that get killed/messed up in a text-related accident. Many people think it will have a huge impact, while others aren't sure. Still others think the whole thing is much too graphic to be viewed by the very audience it is trying to reach. I don't think it will have a huge impact overall. I believe people have become too desensitized and this commercial plays out like a scene in a movie. On top of that, REAL news stories about drivers causing wrecks due to texting are so commonplace these days that i don't think the PSA adds anything. And, finally, there is the ever-present, "that'll never happen to me" mentality that many of us are guilty of thinking. Sad, but true.

The message is right: Don't Text and Drive.

Several folks have been asking for Shan's recipe for biscuit donuts. Here ya go:

Mix powdered sugar and milk in a bowl to desired consistency for the glaze.

Heat pan of oil on stove or use deep fryer.

Open can of biscuits and separate each one.

Cut a hole out of the center of each biscuit. Shan uses the lid to a bottled water bottle.

Place the biscuits in the HOT oil and leave on one side until brown (usually about a minute or less)

Flip biscuits over and let the uncooked side boil in oil for about a minute (until brown)

Remove biscuits from oil and set on plate.

Drizzle glaze over each donut, then enjoy! Let them sit if they are too hot for your liking.

Ted Kennedy - The man, the mansion, the fortune, the drinking, the driving off the cliff and killing a woman, the family he rescued from russia (or somewhere like that), the things no one wants to really talk about. News at 11. Or not.

Now all the car dealerships that took cars in for the cash-for-clunkers program have a zillion used clunkers they have to try and sell. I'm curious: who would buy these? I mean, they are 'clunkers' right? They had to qualify to be traded in. I'll probably end up with one when it comes my time to get a newer vehicle. While I would like to buy brand-new, I just can't see paying for a new car when I could get a program/used with warranty left and pay about half... We'll see, I guess.

When I was a kid, I once got punched in the face by my best friend's sister. She was mad because I kissed her cousin at a fireworks display.

Aug 27, 2009

40 Favorite Christian/Gospel Songs

I thought it would be fun to see if I could even come up 40 Christian/Gospel (not Christmas) songs, let alone a 'favorite 40.' Let's see how it goes:

  1. Amazing Grace

  2. Grace Flows Down

  3. I'll Fly Away

  4. Old Rugged Cross

  5. Mississippi Squirrel Revival (does that count? I think so!)

  6. Who Am I

  7. Promise Comin Down That Dusty Road (Purkey version)

  8. Thank You

  9. My God is an awesome God

  10. Victory in Jesus

  11. Are you washed in the blood?

  12. How Great Thou Art

  13. Long Black Train

  14. Now is the time to worship

  15. Shout to the Lord

  16. I'm Accepted

  17. When we all get to Heaven

  18. Holy is the Lord

  19. Power in the Blood

  20. Lord, I lift your name on high

  21. Stomp!

  22. Place in this world

  23. The heart of worship

  24. Here I am to worship

  25. Because He lives

  26. Psalm 100 (I think is what it is called)

  27. Okay, I admit, I am out of songs that pop into my head. The rest of the list are songs that I looked up and said, "DUH how could I forget that one!?":

  28. Precious Memories

  29. When the Roll is Called Up Yonder

  30. I feel like traveling on

  31. Beautiful One

  32. How great is our God

  33. You are holy (Prince of Peace)

  34. He Reigns

  35. Here I am to worship

  36. The heart of worship

  37. Worthy is the lamb

  38. Indescribable

  39. Precious memories

  40. this is the day the Lord has made

  41. holy, holy, holy

Okay, that was a LOT harder than I ever thought it would have been.

I have a song that I did not put on there because it exists only in my head (because i can't sing for jack). It is called "A-M-A-Z/I-N-G-G/R-A-C-E, The Lord's Amazing Grace." I wrote it after my maternal grandfather passed away and it plays in my head more than any other song I have every heard. I suppose I need to write it down and get someone to record it for my sake...

Aug 26, 2009

Gettin' my SharePoint on

For the past two days, I have been working on a SharePoint installation at the local school district. I have never installed SharePoint on Windows Server 2008 before this, so it was quite a learning experience. For starters, Server 2008 is WAAAAY different than Server 2003 (which is what I use every day). That's not a bad thing, just a bit of a learning curve that one gets while doing a bit of on-the-job training.

I found an installation guide online (if I think about it, I'll find the site and post a link. Otherwise, you'll just have to look for it like I did), so I printed it out. The guide was okay, but failed to mention a few VITAL steps. Sure, they probably assumed the person reading would know what they were doing, but why would anyone bother making an installation GUIDE and then assume anything at all!? Loco.

Anyway, one of the first things one must do in Server 2008 is add various Roles - that is, tell the server just what it is (or is not) supposed to be doing. The guide mentioned the Web Server Role (not to be confused with the Cinnamon Roll), but failed to mention the Application Role (not to be confused with honor roll). The guide also forgot to mention that one must select "Windows Authentication" and "Basic Authentication" in addition to the preselected "Anonymous Authentication." In plain English, you have to tell the server just how people (users) are going to access the information posted to the site. Took more than a few minutes to figure THAT one out.

The guide does have some VERY handy steps that involve creating users that have specific names and then assigning those users very specific roles (not to be confused with sit-com roles).

Another neglected item is that one must configure the server's FIREWALL settings to allow people who are not on the actual server (i.e., everyone else on the great green Earth) access to the sites created in SharePoint. That would have been handy to have. That would have saved about two hours of kicking and screaming. And, yes, I'm talking about me.

Eventually, I got most of the system up and going, but still had two areas that were giving me trouble. One: Users could not log in using Windows Authentication (that means they could not log on securely). The fix? Alternate Access Mappings. It's a setting in SharePoint. All SharePoint admins should make themselves VERY familiar with the concept. It saves a LOT of headache. The other thing? Search.

SharePoint Search is a very finicky beast. I found a different guide that (well, no so much a guide so much as an online forum with the fix) not only solved the problem at the district, but also solved the problem I've been battling for two years at my own installation! The fix? When configuring Search in the Shared Services Provider, the default option is to use the same login as the search account. But, it doesn't work correctly. Admins familiar with this will see things like "Access Denied" in their indexing logs (as opposed to fire logs). To fix this, there is an option to specify a user account for the indexing (called a 'crawl' - not of the watermelon variety, however). So, you specify the account, but use the exact same account as the search. I know, you're either thinking, "But, it's the same one you just told me I couldn't use by default" or you are thinking, "I have no idea what he is talking about, but I am reading this anyway hoping to find something humorous or something that isn't related in any way to this techy stuff." If you are thinking the latter, then, I'm afraid this post holds very little for you in the way of non-techiness and not more in the way of humor. If you are thinking the first part of that, then YOU ARE RIGHT! Yes, you use the exact same username and password that you thought you were using anyway. The difference? When you specify the account, there is an option to UNCHECK a box for "Do not allow Basic authentication..." Once you uncheck it, SharePoint will scream at you (I think), but tell the program you know what you're doing. And SAVE your settings, and crawl to your heart's content (as in "I feel conTENT" and not "I was looking for humorous CONtent!")!!

Another thing I learned during the SharePoint install came while installing it in VMWare on the tech's laptop. The Stand-alone version of SharePoint is missing a few key elements, but mainly there is no 'anonymous' access (that I readily saw) for the stand-alone all-in-one setup. That's not necessarily bad, but do not select that option in a production environment if you plan on allowing web surfers to view your site without logging in. Maybe I'm the only one that didn't know that, but this was my first time, so I'm sharing it with any other 'first-timers' out there.

Sidenote: If you are new around these parts (that is, new to finding out just what is popping into my head), WELCOME ABOARD! Feel free to "Follow Me" on the right, or remain anonymous. Actually, for your own sake, you're probably better off not telling anyone you visit here...

Okay, if you've hung around this long, I just as well give you something to laugh about. This is about me, so feel free to laugh at me or with me, which ever.

Some time ago, I had to attend a training on some new Professional Development web site the state was putting into place. During the training, we were required to log in to the system using a pre-defined, generic account. As I looked at the board with the login information, I could not understand why anyone would choose the username they wanted us to use, nor what the meaning of such a username could possibly be. It turned out, I had been putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable. The account?


I read that as "De-Mouser," as in "one who removes the mouse."

I'll let you figure out what it REALLY says... And, yes, I admitted my stupidity to the roomful of techies. Hey, if you can't laugh at yourself....

Aug 24, 2009

40 Favorite Video Games

Welcome to another installment of "40 Things!" For this round, I thought it would be fun to make a list of my 40 favorite video games. Some of these you may know and others you may have never heard of, but some of these may take you on a trip down memory lane.

  1. Little Computer People

  2. M.U.L.E.

  3. Qix

  4. Pac Man

  5. Zork

  6. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

  7. Star Wars: Tie Fighter

  8. Zaxxon

  9. Donkey Kong

  10. Far Cry

  11. Wolfenstein 3D

  12. Duke Nuke 'em 3D

  13. Doom

  14. Pirates!

  15. Below the Root

  16. Secret of Monkey Island

  17. Leisure Suit Larry

  18. Need for Speed

  19. Battlefield 1942

  20. Ghost Recon

  21. Pools of Radiance

  22. Solo Flight

  23. Lemmings

  24. Totally 80's with Martha Quinn

  25. Combination Lock

  26. Card Sharks

  27. Wizardy!

  28. Ultima

  29. Yie Ar Kung Fu

  30. Summer Games

  31. MVP Baseball

  32. Space Taxi

  33. Intellivision Football

  34. Ea Sports NHL

  35. MySims

  36. Guitar Hero

  37. SingStar

  38. Empire Deluxe

  39. Crayon Physics Deluxe

  40. Medal of Honor

My list could have kept going with various Star Wars titles, the whole You Don't Know Jack game series, Gun, Outlaws, and many, many more!

Aug 20, 2009

This post intentionally left blank

Have you ever been leafing through some kind of notebook or instruction manual only to come across the words, "this page intentionally left blank?" If the page was meant to be blank, then why would anyone NOT leave it blank by telling us that it was SUPPOSED to be blank. Of course, once they put that on there, it's not blank anymore. Does that mean the page was UNintentionally typed on?

"This page unintentionally not left blank"

Of course, that wouldn't be right either because if someone put that on the page, then they MUST have done so intentionally! Now we're back to the original problem. Perhaps the pages should read something like, "This page has nothing worth reading on it."

But then why bother to put that? hat's like those t-shirts you see that say, "Don't Read This!" Well, crap, it's too late! I already read it before I knew not to read it.

And here's another thing about those pages: had the people just left the page blank, maybe the reader could have used the page to make some notes. Now, he or she can't because "this page intentionally left blank" is usually printed dead-smack in the middle of the page! Again, what whiz-bang came up with that one!?

Now, some people ask why they bothered to put the page in there at all. That has to do with the way the book was bound, usually. The "blank" page is usually the other half of another page in the book.

maybe the message isn't for the reader after all. Like the "do not remove under penalty of law" tags aren't meant for the consumer, perhaps the "blank" message is actually for the printing company. That way, they know there was not a mistake in the master document. Oh sure, I could be Googling this and discover the answer for myself, but why? Where is the fun and rambling in that?

For whatever reason it's printed, I just wanted you to know that I intentionally left this post blank. Don't read this. There's nothing worthwhile here.

Why I'll never maake Boss-man

I told Terry (a co-worker who is the technology clerk) the other day that i would not make a good Co-op Director or School Supt. See, that was last Friday around 3 o'clock. It was dead at work. We were basically milling about, doing enough to warrant keeping our jobs, but also enough to not be too busy. I said, "Man, this is why I can't be the boss. ever. We'd be so outta here." And that led to a discussion about my managerial style (if I had one) in general, and why I would never make it to be boss.

Closing early on Fridays when no one is there is just one thing. Another is the manner in which I would manage. Basically, I'm in the school of thought that goes something like this: Hire the people you know will do their jobs and let them do it. Now, before anyone goes running to my boss(es) saying that I said this or that about anything, let me be clear here: I am only talking about how *I* would do things. I am not talking about how anybody else may or may not do things, and I am not talking about anything related to how things are in my current employment. Capice? I like my job very much, and I like working for Phoebe and Lindy. Thank you. This is about dreaming of running my own organization or company one day... Er, well, given what you're reading here, more about why I *won't* be running my own... I digress.

Where was I? oh yeah. As the head honcho, my job is not (er, would not be) to know all the details of what my employees do or know how to do. My style would be something akin to this: I hired you, now do your job. If you aren't doing your job, I'll hear about it and we will deal with things as needed. How would I know if you weren't doing your job? Because I hired you to perform certain tasks and meet certain goals. Some of those may have specific deadlines. Miss the deadline, you're not doing your job. Fail to complete a task, you're not doing your job. See? Isn't that easy?

I would also not make a good boss because I am very laid back about most things. It really does take quite a bit to get me riled up. Now, once I am riled up, for the near future anything and everything can set me off, but getting to that point takes quite a bit. I hit that point during the summer. I'm over it now, back to "consistent Dave." Basically, this goes back to doing your job, I know. But it also goes to work life in general. I am very much a "whatever" kind of person.

I am also a very "time and place" kind of person. There is a time and place for dressing up (suit and tie for guys, dresses or dress suits for gals) and for dressing down (Fridays for sure, summertime, crawling around in ceilings or under buildings, for example). I also believe there should be a code for what employees can and cannot wear plus what they 'should' or 'should not' wear. Naturally, that all depends on where I would be this boss-man, but I think there are some basically universal guidelines. And, if there aren't any, I'd be setting them for my employees.

I would also not make a good boss because I'd be all about moving to the newest viable technologies. Why does that make me bad? Because, I would be the guy who wants to change things all the time. Well, maybe not ALL the time, but frequently enough to drive my folks crazy. Computers, cellphones, office phones, software, gadgets, you name it. We'd be on a three-year or five-year rotation depending on what the technology is. For example, office phones would be updated every five years. Yes, I know the system in place may be working fine, but the technology changes so much, we'd have access to new features and functions in five years. Cellphone would be updated/upgraded every two years. That's how long the contracts are, so once a contract was up, that employee would get a new phone (again, with the newest features). Oh, sure, right now, you're probably screaming something about the economy and budgets and such. Pshaw. As the boss, I'd deal with the budgets, or rather have the comptroller deal with it and let me know.

I would also make sure employees got paid twice a month. I've worked for companies that pay once a month and others that pay twice. I also worked where we got paid every two weeks or every single week. Okay, every week is way too much work on the payroll person. Every two weeks gives you at least two "extra" paychecks a year, and that's also too much of a pain for the payroll person. Aside from that, though, I believe everyone should be paid twice a month. If Fortune 500 companies can do it, so can I.

There are other things that would keep me from being the boss-man (should the position be offered, not that it would be), but I can't remember them off the top of my head. And, I'm sure you've read enough of this rambling in any case.

Aug 19, 2009

Starting a new school year

Today was Emily's and Tyler's first day of the school year. They haven't made it home yet as I am writing this, so I will update later. Things started off a bit rough, though. Tyler would not wake up, so he was running a tad behind. Emily was not happy to be awake so early in the morning and she and Shan had to pick out clothes for the day. We were all running ragged by the time it was time to head out.

Since the High School is across the street from the Elementary school, Tyler now rides with his mom and Emily. Tyler and I spent nearly every school morning together for the past four years, riding along as I took him to Middle School. Not this year. This year, I will not have that extra body in the truck, sitting in the passenger seat with nary a word to say. And, when we did talk, it was all sorts of randomness that only he and I really understand and can keep up with. We got that from my Dad, I'm sure.

It would be easy to say something like, "I will miss not making that turn every morning." But, the truth is, I *missed* that turn almost as I made it last year. We'd get to the next intersection and Tyler would look at me and ask, "Uh, dad, aren't you taking me to school today?" I'm tellin' ya, he was so quiet over there, I forgot I had him in the truck with me! Well, and the fact that my mind tends to wander a bit about nothing when I'm driving. I know my ultimate destination, so I head in that direction is all.

For me, the first day of school meant answering the phone almost constantly, helping schools. I also answered a bunch of email, took part in an online webinar about the use of handheld devices (Palms, etc) in classroom instruction, met with some telephone guys about future plans for the phone system in the new building, helping one of our early childhood classrooms get reconnected to the network (evidently the summer workers unplugged the network switch when they waxed the floor in the kitchen area and did not plug it back in. Nice.), helping John troubleshoot some interactive video issues at a school, and do some of the various other things I do as the technology fireman.

Welcome back to school!

Aug 16, 2009

Why Facebook is not killing my blogging

The idea behind sites like Facebook and Twitter is that they allow you to 'microblog' - that is, write short snippets that happen throughout the day. The downside for me is that because I thoroughly enjoy Facebook, I say whatever pops in my head on there and then can't think of what it is I want to talk about over here.

I've read several articles about the death of full-fledged blogging as a means of personal communication. I don't agree that quickfire microblogging will be the death of longer blog entries. Here's why: Facebook does not let you get everything down you might wish to say, especially if the topic is a hotbed of thought and discussion. Twitter can't even come close - it only allows for 140 characters to say what you want to say.

Right now, I can update my status and say something like, "played baseball outside with Emily then busted out the weedwacker for a round of grassicide." Most likely, I will have several friends choose to 'like' my status and some may even post a response to it. But what you miss out on is the whole story behind the baseball game we played. And that is why I will continue to post here. It lets me write out long, sometimes humorous, ramblings that I am hoping someone out there reads. then again, if no one does, well, I know I posted it for me so that I can look back on it later and amuse myself.

So, for your enjoyment, here is what baseball in the front yard is like:

Emily comes into the living room from the playroom. She is carrying a plastic, oversized golf club, a beanbag-style fuzzy toy baseball, and a faux leather glove with velcro in it to aide with catching the ball. "Do you want to play inside or outside," she asks, not giving the choice of whether or not I *want* to play, but *where* to play.

Before we head outside, I suggest that we might want to use her t-ball bat and ball instead of the golf club. We look through the playroom for the ball, but cannot find one. We head outside to the storage shed to get her pink t-ball bat and to see if there were any balls we could use. While we did not find any, we did find plenty of spiders, webs, and ants. Once we were done playing wild kingdom, we settled on using the squishy ball with the t-ball bat.

When we set up to play, I told Emily to go get the play bases from the house so we could run the bases when we hit the ball. What I neglected to pay any attention to was the temperature outside. It was hot. Not just hot, but also very still. We hadn't even begun yet, and already I was starting to sweat. This was not good.

Emily brings the bases outside and I step off a compact baseball diamond. Emily is up to bat first. She does not like to play with "ghost runners" so the game is played such that the pitcher returns to the mound and the runner tries to outwit the pitcher in order to run to the next base. Each team either has to score 5 runs in an inning or get three outs before the other team can bat.

Did I mention it was hot? After two at-bats, the front of my shirt was showing the signs and I could feel beads of sweat starting to roll down my back. Emily had scored two runs and I had chased her around the bases the whole time. She hasn't picked up a bat since t-ball, and she did great. I did manage to get her out three times, but not before she scored four runs.

I did not fair so well. Between trying to hit the wild pitches she hurled at me, by me, and near me, and running my out-of-shape self around the bases when I did manage to get a hit, I felt like I was going to fall over any minute! Emily, on the other hand, was having a blast - giggling, running around, chasing me.

She won the game, having scored five runs in the next two innings. A few of the runs were my 'helping her' by doing things like dropping the ball, throwing the ball away from the play, etc. But, most of the runs were my own inability to catch the girl. She is fast, heat or no heat! I called the game after three innings so I could break out the weedeater and finish the yard work. I told her to get her brother and tell him I said they needed to play baseball together. I'm not sure how that went, but after I was done with yard work, Emily wanted to come in and get cleaned off.

I was for that!

Aug 13, 2009

Getting it done.

Wednesday was a very good at work. I had to run to Blevins in order to look over their layout for digital signage. In plain English, that means they have two flat screen tv's in the hiigh school, two in the elementary building and one in the main building at their Emmet campus.

The tv's in the high school and elementary building are pretty far apart, so we will use two devices that will convert the computer image to data over a network wire, then convert it back to display on the tv.

While I was there, the technology coordinator told me that his web site was down and that his email system would not allow users to view their webmail. After messing with the server for a bit, I started looking online for possible solutions. As it turns out, the solution was to create new server certificates. It mainly has to do with SSL (like when you are shopping online and you see the lock in the address bar or near the bottom of the screen). Once that was done, everything worked like a champ.

As it turned out, the Emmet campus (about 30 miles away) had the same problem. I ran over there and sure enough, the same fix cured them, too! Excellent!

Fast forward to Thursday. While in Fouke, I met with the Supt about some upcoming projects he's wanting to implement. They are about to become one of the "turn-around districts of the year" with all the advancements in technology he is hoping to put into place.

after that meeting, though, I took on the task of trying to get their Netware server to run a tape backup. They've had a lot of trouble with tape backup units in that computer. At one point, Dell had installed a newer version of the backup software than the district was licensed to use. So, after 60 days, POOF, no more backups. Dell them rolled back to the old software, but the tape drive never worked correctly again.

Today (Thursday), after a conversation with the state field tech, I realized that I might be able to find an old driver for the tape drive. It was worth a shot. And, it worked! The drive finally showed up in the software again, and we did a quick backup of one file. And, it worked! wahoo! The technology coordinator there and I whooped and hollered about it. Yes, we techies get excited about some strange things, especially from solving a problem that's been nagging for MONTHS!

Fouke also had a weird issue with certain laptops not showing their video on projectors. After some fiddling, I realized they had to set the output by using the display properties rather than the toggle switch on the laptop. Why? I have no idea. The key is that it worked and the techs know what to do in order to keep things running smoothly on that front.

Thursday evening, Shan mowed the lawn (she likes to ride the riding mower) and I grabbed the rake to clean up the shavings. Tyler followed me around and put the shavings in a rolling cart then dumped them over the fence.

Not a bad couple of days.

Aug 11, 2009

Teaching and batting .500

I have been busy this week, teaching the last few of my summer workshops. Monday, I taught a quick overview class on Office 2007. It went really well, had lots of questions to answer. Those are the best workshops. I talk a little and let the participants guide the workshop from there. We may not cover all the topics on the 'agenda,' but the folks learn what THEY want to learn, and will most likely use what they learn.

On Tuesday, I taught two workshops - one was an intro to computers. We covered basic getting around the Windows environment, but also how to save a form from our web site, edit the form, save it, then attach it in email. It's amazing to me what has become 'basic' these days. :-) Soon, the 'basics' will cover blogging, podcasting, and collaborative online projects.

The other workshop was offsite at a district. It was supposed to be two hours of Technology for teaching Arkansas History. The premise was that we would be in a computer lab for the training - or so I thought. Instead, we were all (35-40 people) in one classroom with mine as the only computer. The workshop went well, I thought, and covered a lot of resources. The 'hands-on' parts were cut out and instead, the participants were told they could do that part on their own. I had approval from the principal before that announcement was made. On the upside, it made for a very short workshop. :-)

I recently bought an a/v media switcher for Shan's Mom. She has an old VCR, a dvd player, directv, and surround sound. It was all hooked up in a fashion that required something just short of a degree to figure out. For example, to watch a dvd, you had to turn on the vcr, start a tape, stop the tape, then turn on surround in order to hear anything. Now, with the autoswitcher, the TV is on by default. If she turns on the VCR, it switches for her. DVD, same thing. easy peasy!

and then, I tried to install a Hawking brand print server for my mom so she could print wirelessly to her all-in-one printer. The server saw the printer, the computer saw the server, but the printer's software would not allow the computer to print because it could not talk 'directly' to the printer. Stupid. It is a common 'feature' for printer software these days, but find it annoying as heck. I'm a tech. I know what I'm doing most of the time. Let me do what I need to, ya know? Well, I'll figure it out eventually.

Aug 9, 2009

Technology, by nature, means change

First of all, this post is not directed at anyone in particular, but much like a sermon on Sunday morning, if one feels the conviction, then perhaps one might want to evaluate their own position in the technology field.

Secondly, this post reflects an accumulation of observations over a period of years in my field. This is not aimed at any one particular moment in time or specific instance, though references may be made to specific instances.

And, thirdly, well, there is no thirdly, but learned in all my writing classes that if you have a 1, you need a 2 and 3. So, you learned something already... Unless you already knew that, in which case never mind.

Life keeps moving forward, and with it (or helping it along by pushing), changes in technology. We learn how to do things better, faster, stronger - er, wait, that's the six million dollar man. While new technologies emerge, some people struggle with how to use it and/or *IF* they need to use it all. In my experience, the older one gets, the more 'set in one's ways' one becomes. Now, that is a huge generalization, but remember, I said "in MY experience."

Granted, this comes in varying degrees of resistance to keeping up with new technology. Some folks simply go with the flow, but a slow to adopt. They essentially wait to see what the hub-bub's about and then eventually join the crowd (usually about the time that technology is already being phased out). Some folks go along with the flow, but fight it every chance they get. Of course, many of us know people that simply dig in their heels and refuse to use ANY newer technology. For the sake of this post, I fully acknowledge those folks that are the early adopters, but we're not talking about them today.

I think it's perfectly fine for many folks to be slow/late adopters. And in certain circumstances, it pays to wait (can you say VISTA?). I fully admit that I am in the category that falls somewhere between full-on adoption and slow-to-adopt. Take Sharepoint. We went heads-first diving in, getting a copy of 2007 before it was officially released and going full tilt with it as our production content management system. Likewise, I helped make sure Vista was nowhere near any machine in our offices.

I am in the tech field. Network architectures come and go, change and evolve. Computer programs come and go, brands come and go, people come and go. What I have witnessed lately, however, is an older crowd of folks who are willing to spend hours arguing about NOT implementing new technology or changing the way "they've always done it." In some cases, these folks serve as the only voice of authority in their business or organization. This means that the head of the organization has to trust (or butt heads with) the person in charge of technology, even if that person refuses to move forward.

Now, don't get me wrong here, moving forward for the sake of moving forward is no way to run the show at all. But, when it is time to step back and take a good, hard look at one's environment, the tech person should be the very first person to at the front of the group doing the stepping and looking. I am finding more and more that the tech person is the LAST one who wants to stop and take a look around. I know, a lot of times, the tech is so overwhelmed, they don't think they CAN stop and take a look. But, everyone needs a breather.

There is the, "But, it'll cost too much to change" reasoning as well. While that may be true, what one might wish to consider is the long-term cost of not changing - in terms of manpower, support, general knowledge of the currently implemented systems. In some cases, once the tech leaves, there is NO ONE that knows ANYTHING about what was done or what was being done. This is never good. And, if the organization uses systems that are outdated or are outside of ANY replacements' knowledge base, then the organization spends money on training and in man-hours trying to figure out what's what. Where are the savings in that?

There is the often unspoken but palpable, "I've never done anything like that before" excuse, too. This one is a little easier for me to swallow, as implementing any new technology can be scary - how will it interact with our critical systems or, better, WILL IT even interact? This is where research comes in. But the tech cannot spend months researching without an answer. Do the research and find an answer. If the new technologies work in your environment, move to implement if it will benefit your organization, especially in the long-run. Even if you don't know what you're doing, there is always help - vendors, classes, peers. And, if it turns out that implementation (again, based on research) is not viable, then explain why, in hard facts, why it is not feasible. And, although, "we've never done this before" is a hard fact, it should never, ever be number one on the list. In fact, it should be the very last point one makes, not the first one.

I pointedly singled out older techs because in my experience, these are the folks close to retirement. The closer one gets to finally turning in the keys, I see the desire for change grow weaker and weaker. After all, if one can simply 'coast through' a couple years, then the issue becomes the next person's problem. I don't understand why more folks close to retiring wouldn't rather go full-tilt in the other direction. Here's my thinking, "Heck yeah, we're going to implement this stuff! I'll get it in here, get it started, put my name on the foundations and then hit the road! Let the next guy (or gal) deal with it!" Seriously. That's how I plan on going out...

I know I have rambled, wandered around a bit, and I'm not sure I really followed any given path during this stream-of-consciousness tirade on 'head-in-the-sand' tech folks. But if I leave you with anything, take this: Sometimes putting in new technology is the scariest thing you may do in your career, but no matter how old you are or what reasons you may THINK you have, stop and reflect on how you even got to where you are right now. I bet you will find that 10, 15, 20 years ago, you were the one going to the boss with these coo, crazy notions of technology. Find that person inside you again. Give up the security blanket. Take a look around and SEEK OUT things you can change, things you know in your heart you should change, things that have been around for more than 6 or 7 years. Seriously. And if it is 10+ years old, admit it to yourself. Own it. Then, make plans to update. Above everything else, never be afraid to ask for help along the way.

Aug 7, 2009

John Hughes and contractual Monoply

I'm sure you've heard by now that director John Hughes has passed away. He was the genius behind movies like "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink," "Sixteen Candles," "Ferris Bueller," and many more 80's movies that not only hit home with teens (and those just about to be teens and those who had just come through theirs), but were also snapshots of how we WANTED life to be - the dork gets the girl, the girl gets her guy, and in almost every movie we learn that in some ways, we're all actually pretty similar. Jocks, preps, nerds, popular kids and outcasts ultimately share many traits that are hidden by the labels and stereotypes we, ourselves, put on each other - especially as teens.

Even though the movies are quintessential 80's, they are timeless. I could pop in the DVD of "Breakfast Club" and watch it with my son, and it would still be as relevant (maybe not the music, maybe not the styles) as it was when I was his age. I suppose that while Hughes was showing us how we are, he may have also been showing us how we would most likely always be. Rest in Peace, Mr. Hughes.

"Contractual Monopoly" - if that's not a phrase, then let it be said I coined it here, though I'm sure I could Google it were I so inclined. What am I talking about? Baseball cards, of course. Back in the early 80's, a small company called Fleer took Topps (the only company that was 'allowed'' to make cards featuring the actual team logos) to court over monopolistic practices. They won, and soon card companies popped up like online web sites did during the dot-com era. Competition was everywhere. Some say that was good, some say it was bad, for collecting. Where I come from, competition is ALWAYS a good thing.

Many collectors became disenfranchised with the hobby as the years went on, however. They complain of bad photos, stupid gimmicks, you name it, and say the hobby lost its focus. Do train collectors, Beanie baby collectors, teddy bear collectors, stamp collectors, currency collectors, ad naseum, feel that way about their own hobbies? I have no idea. And, I digress. Basically, though, they also complain about having too many sets to try to collect, too MUCH choice, not enough creativity in what was being offered, and in some sets, very shoddy photography and worksmanship - not to mention outright fraud in some cases of player auto's etc.

With the stroke of a pen (or ten or twelve, which will eventually end up as fodder in future "ink'd deals" sets, I'm sure), Topps and the MLB signed a deal once again giving the company exclusive rights to use MLB logos on cards from 2010 into the foreseeable future. Many card collectors are loving it. Many are hating it. And some collectors are still trying to figure how it will affect them at all.

I have two huge issues with the deal:

First, we have taken a 30-year step backward. Once again, Topps has managed to put themselves in a monopolistic position. I can only imagine this will get challenged in court. Supposedly, the argument is akin to the deal Reebok (or whomever) signed with the NFL for shoes. Here's my problem: it is not the same thing. If the cards were being supplied only *TO* the MLB, then sure, they could pick they wanted. Much like bats, helmets, cleats, EQUIPMENT, or heck, beverages, whatever. That is a different type of agreement. Baseball cards, any trading cards, are NOT the property of or the exclusive use of the MLB. in fact, I would venture many MLB-connected folks probably aren't even collectors. If the only place a person could buy cards was through the stadiums or through the team sites, then sure, ink the deal, we're done here. But that is not how it works. Evidently, hockey and maybe even the NFL for all I know have already inked similar deals. I don't collect those, so I dont pay attention. If so, those are also contractual monopolies. The collectors and fans should be pissed as hell at this move.

Will this move slim down the number of choices? Of course. Will this end the confusion of card collecting? Not even close. Take a look through a baseball card almanac. THOUSANDS of pages dedicated not only to the big brands, but also to all the goofy oddball brands that were around for as long as Topps has been. And why were there oddball brands? Because of the monopoly. We will see a return of the oddball cards, which will not only NOT clarify collecting confusion, but will actually ADD to it. Then again, I loves me some oddball cards, so as a collector, maybe seeing Topps shoot themselves in the foot is a good thing after all.

Secondly, an argument is being made by several collectors and fellow bloggers that the quality will rise now that there is no competition. I disagree. If only one company makes cars and they make crappy cars, they will always make crappy cars. Why? There is no competition to drive them to improve. Frankly, does any collector remember what kind of crap Topp was putting out UNTIL Upper Deck and Fleer came out with cards that blew Topps out of the water!? Yeah, Topps was on the slippery slope to suckdom until then. And, wasn't Topps recently about to be swallowed up by Upper Deck and everyone cried and boo-hooed because that would be then end of competition in the hobby? Yet, now, many of those same people applaud the contractual monopolistic move by Topps? How is that different? How is that going to give Topps ANY incentive to get better?

Topps just found their golden ticket to mediocrity, and I hate the fact that if I am going to continue to collect cards, I am forced to ride the only train in town.

Aug 3, 2009

What a weekend!

We're baaaa-aack! We had a great time in Little Rock this weekend, but it seems like this year, the weekend flew by much faster than in the past. Not sure why that is, but it's the way things went.

We got to the hotel on Friday evening. As I was checking in, there was a group of folks there for a family reunion or something, trying to get rooms that had supposedly been booked under the family name. Evidently, whoever was in charge of booking a block of rooms underestimated how people were coming, because the folks at the next counter were HOT about not having a suite. The poor manager was trying to straighten things out, but it was a battle he seemed to be losing rather than winning. Ultimately, though, he would win because, well, he's the manager. Like it or leave it, you only get a room if he says you get one, ya know?

We ended up in the very first room on the first floor, which was great for proximity to parking - not so great for the number of people that use the side door to come in and out.

We went to eat at a place called "Krazy Mike's" on Bowman Road, just off Markham. They have shrimp, wings, catfish, chicken, and a few other entrees. It is a very small place and could very well be featured on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" as far as we were concerned. Good food.

We went back to the hotel to hang out. I spent most of the time on Facebook and rebuilding Tyler's laptop, then burning DVDs with recovery information on them in case we had to do this again in the future. Since he is 14, he likes to experiment with different kinds of software, mainly emulators, which generally do not come from reputable sites. It's the nature of the 'net these days, I'm afraid.

The kids, Shan, and Kay all went swimming. I opted to wait until Saturday night to go. Oh, and there was a trip across the parking lot to Krispy Kreme, of course.

We woke on Saturday, and headed out for shopping. My memory is a little shoddy on this, but I think we hit Target first, then we went to Mardel's. Well, Tyler and I went to HobbyTown USA in search of cards and general hanging out fun. I was hoping to score a box of 2009 Allen & Ginter cards, but they only had one box and it was opened for selling individual packs. Nothing else really interested me in the way of cards, so we walked around.

Tyler came across a computer screen with a virtual airport and connected to the computer was a remote control for model airplanes. I explained that certain controllers have usb cables and you can use your real controller to fly virtual planes as a way to practice or just have fun. I tried my hand at it, and did not do very well. I crashed and burned. Tyler took the controls, and we changed airfields. His plane flew towards a pole and the wing clipped it, breaking off the wing of his virtual model plane. Time to reset. This time, Tyler drove directly into the pole. Getting closer... Third time's a charm, right? Well, he managed to keep it straight and get the thing into the air. What came next was a combination of horror and hilarity. His plane spun, rose, and then took a nosedive into the ground. And, just like in real life, the model plane shattered into a billion pieces on the computer screen. We were laughing so hard, we got looks from the management there. I decided it was best that we leave at that point.

Back to Mardel's, Tyler and I opted to watch "Fanboys" in the van. Now, THAT'S a funny movie, perfect for Star Wars dorks everywhere (which we are a couple!).

We picked everyone else up in front of the store, since it was pouring down rain at that point. And, we drove up to the corner for lunch at El Porton's. It is a mexican place that serves VERY good food!

After we ate, we went to Burlington Coat Factory. Tyler and I stayed in the van to finish "Fanboys" and then I went inside the store to see what everyone was buying. I'm a guy, so I can't regale you with descriptions of clothes and the like. All I remember is that they bought some. You'll have to ask Shan for the details. Sorry.

After Burlington, we went to The Knowledge Tree, a teacher supply store in Little Rock. Shan found all kinds of things for her classroom! I love going in there because they have some cool stuff that I like to play with, er, learn how to use. We spent a good while in there and everyone came out with bags of stuff!

I believe we went to see "Ice Age 3D" next. That was a very cute movie! I think Ice Age 2 is my favorite of the three, though. I am a big fan of the latest incarnations of 3D, though Disney seems to have a better grasp on it. I'm just happy not to be wearing red and blue glasses. Oh, and since my sunglasses are polarized, if I wear the 3d ones and the sunglasses at the same time, I can't see ANYTHING out of my left eye. It's a weird feeling!

I think we went to eat at Olive Garden after that. I dunno, we may have gone to another store, but if we did, I don't remember it. It has been a LONG time since we've been to the O.G. and it was delicious!

I believe we headed back to the hotel after eating, hung out for a bit, then went for a swim. The pool was not crowded when we started, but as it got closer to closing time, more people showed up. After a quick shower, I picked up some Krispy Kremes and came back to the room. I was dog-tired after staying up late the night before with Tyler's computer and then a full day on-the-go, so I turned in early (about 11:00pm or so).

Sunday, we got our things packed up and headed out for another half-day or so of shopping. We went to the JcPenney store near the hotel, then to Sears, and finally to lunch at Long John Silvers - everyone's favorite, except Shan. She is not a big fan. From there, we stopped in Benton because we thought there was an Office Depot or Staples. We were wrong. So, Mom, the kids, and I headed home in Shan's van and Kay (who had come earlier in the week because she had a training to attend) and Shan took Kay's van to Wal-Mart in Arkadelphia before coming home with supper - Sonic Burgers!

Whew! That's our weekend "in a nutshell" as they say. :-)

Now, I get to enjoy my last 4-day week of the summer...