Life versus Covid-19

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind as Covid-19 has made it’s way to Arkansas and we are feeling the effects.  Working in an IT security capacity is stressful enough but hearing constant news about new coronavirus cases brings a whole new level of pressure.  To make matters worse there have been at least two hospitals in our state in the last thirty days stricken with cyber security incidents instigated by malicious actors that only heightens a feeling of eminent threat.

There is some good news, though even that has some sadness associated.  My sons are both home from college unexpectedly.  Their campus started spring break a week early, sending all students back out into the world.  My boys came home, and their mother and I are certainly happy to have them there. However, my sons recognized before they left that as senior-levels they likely would not come back. Sure enough, the campus notified them over the weekend that all remaining classes would be online only, and graduation ceremonies are suspended.  They have another week of spring break followed by four weeks of online studies.  One is frantically applying for jobs in an environment that is not hopeful for new grads. The other is waiting until his med school starts in late summer but is also otherwise unemployed.

I am also on spring break since I went back to grad school last summer to pursue a masters degree.  My mentor at work has been very encouraging in that regard, and I’m happy to report I had an “A” in my first class in over thirty years!  So far this semester’s class is also going well.  I wish I could take more than one class a term, so now that I’ve survived almost two semesters I will explore taking more than one at a time in the future.

So much is going on.  I mentioned a pair of cyber security events in other Arkansas hospitals.  Sadly, this might benefit my company.  We have struggled to get funding for the projects we think could help reduce risks the most, and we are in the process of getting those monies now.  I hate it that my “neighbors” have been hit, but the sense of urgency that has created should help us address our own needs.  It is especially troublesome to me that hospitals shouldering such an incredible job with the coronavirus are being targeted by cyber criminals: what a sad state our world has come to.

At the same time, that sense of urgency around my job gives me and my coworkers an awareness that what we do matters. Being involved in healthcare is still a fulfilling mission and calling, and my team’s role in helping to protect us from bad actors is necessary.  My job is a blessing in so many ways.

My personal encouragement to everyone: do what you can to fight the spread of this virus. Social distancing will help, though I’m sure that is not all we will have to do to end this.  We have not hit our peak of new cases yet.  In fact, we are likely very early in the curve and it’s going to get worse.  Best estimates at this point are another 6-8 weeks before life has any chance of returning to normality.  Personally I think normal is going to be gone much longer than that.  Protect yourself and your families, look out for your friends and neighbors, and do what you can do to stop the spread of this: taking your medicine now will be much easier than taking it later.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Life is Change

Some things end as others begin.  No secrets there: that’s what life is all about.  These days, that describes my life in particular.  Mom died, Dad remarried, I got a new job, the boys went off to college: all changes that have happened over the past couple of years.  Some of these changes are heart rending, some of them are joyful.  Life goes on. And I’m not writing often enough, even though I still journal occasionally, so tonight I’ll start to fix that.

My sons are grown…. it almost hurts to write that.  My wife and I helped them pack and return to campus last week, and since they are college seniors we know there may not be a “next time” for that activity.  One lad has determined his life plan and is well underway, and the other is still working on it  but he’s close to figuring it out.  As a dad I feel like they are going to be ok. I tell my friends they take after their mother and thank God I didn’t screw this up, but secretly I am very proud of them both. They are going to be ok.

Change is usually surprising, but sometimes it can be seen coming from a distance. That happened to me last year. My VP retired suddenly and my immediate boss did not get tapped for the job, leaving our management group in a state of uncertainty.  An exec from another part of the company was considering retirement and reached out to me. I have taken his job offering with the intention of replacing him in a year or two along with an immediate promotion and a career extension that looks like it could take me to retirement. It brings with it a sense of fulfillment and the chance to make a significant difference for ten years or more.  Thank goodness I recognized the potential blessings that could bring: I jumped at the chance.

And then sometimes the change hits you unexpectedly.  My new boss indicated he would be with me a couple of years to mentor, train and prepare me for a move into an executive position… and then retired after 6 months!  However, for now it looks like I am still on track. The work is rewarding, and I’m thrilled that this late in life (again, hard to write!) there are still opportunities and possibilities that make work exciting.

Last but not least: I’m going back to school! I had considered graduate school a number of times in the past but had never felt right about it. Once my own children started school it seemed like that ship had sailed. But when my new job started my mentor made clear to me the education was necessary. I started class this week as a candidate in a Masters program: more change!

Who knows when I’ll have time to blog again?  Life is change.  I’ll try to check in soon and leave an update.  Come see me!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

About That Break…

That break was a bit longer than expected!  It’s been an interesting few years to say the least.  Here are a couple of things that have happened: I lost my mom to cancer.  Our  twins started college. I started woodworking. We joined a new church and made lots of new friends. My wife and I reconnected with our old university.  We got a dog!

I still enjoy writing, though my time seems to get pulled in lots of new directions. However, if and when I ever reconnect with my blog I think my reasons to write are the same: this is a chance to look inside myself and pull something out to examine.  That process of examination provides some sense of order for me; it provides perspective.  I certainly need that, so whether I blog publicly or journal privately I’ll keep doing this.  Until then, be well!



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Break is Over!

Life gets busy, priorities change, interest wanes: in short, I’ve taken a break from the blog.  Sometimes a break is a good thing, allowing us a chance to recharge and renew, and I think that has been the case for me.  The time away from regular writing has allowed some ideas and interests to filter in, so I’ll be starting up again, though probably not on a daily basis at first. 

What’s been going on?  I’ve had a job change, though I’m still employed at the same company.  I have been asked to play more often after hours on my first serious instrument: trombone!  I’ll write at some point about a gig or two I’ve had.  I’ve seen a friend go through a divorce, which has me thinking about the choices we make on a daily basis that affect us in more ways than we might believe.   My kids are about to enter their junior year of high school.  And I’ve been trying to develop new interests in computing with a system called Raspberry Pi, though I still enjoy my Hackintosh.  Oh, and I bought an electric smoker! 

I have used my blog in the past as a coping mechanism, a way to share my interests and passions, and as a way to express myself in a creative fashion.  The topics will be eclectic and hopefully as fun to read about as they are to write.  I’m investigating some new WordPress themes so I’ll be updating the look of the site, too, so change is in the air.  Stay tuned!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today I Give Myself Permission To…

Today is my birthday.  Yes, that most special day of the year (ok, maybe it’s only special to me!) has rolled around again, and since I’m a whole year older I must be wiser, right?  But whether I am wiser or not, I will at least enjoy the day in a way that I see fit.  Starting right now I will give myself permission to:

1) Buy myself some toy or bauble that is fun and/or silly, enjoy the heck out of it, laugh about it, and not feel guilty for doing it. 

2) Blow off something I really, really do not want to do.  I won’t tell you what it is, but I’m not gonna do it!  In it’s place I will play guitar, or call a friend I miss, or start a new project just for the fun of it.  Because I can. 

3) Enjoy remembering some people who are no longer living who mattered to me.  My Aunt Reetha, my Grandma Agnes and my Grandmommie (that’s what she wanted to be called), Ricky Cole, C.J. Hall, Brett Rogers and Donnie Price: you and many others are all missed.  Good times, wonderful memories.  You all left us far too soon.

4) Have dinner with my lovely wife (yeah, I still believe I married up!), eat food that may not be good for me, and have a mildly adult beverage along with it.  If you don’t agree: get over it, it’s not your birthday!

5) Shut off the babble and noise of politics and public opinion for the day.  I will now begin my rant about some people I regularly see on Facebook:  President Obama has been declared a citizen no matter what you think his point of origin is or what you believe the facts are about it.  Get over it: it’s done already.  George W. Bush may not be the smartest man alive, but he was smart enough to get elected president… twice!  And you weren’t.  And he has a graduate degree for heaven’s sake: get over it.  Laws, regulations and taxes: our world is not going to end today, tomorrow, or next year because of any of this.  If you think it will then stop your worthless ranting about it, get off your butt and go DO something about it.  And no matter what you say about the far left, the far right, or the dead center most reasonable thinking human beings never changed their opinion because of something some idiot or some genius posted on Facebook.  Get over it.  And maybe go look at cat pictures instead; they are a heck of lot funnier!

6) Enjoy my age.  I have reached the point in life where it’s really just a number.  I still have my health, my family, a decent job, and good friends and family who care and love me mostly the way that I am.  And if you don’t agree with that statement… get over it!  It’s my birthday! 

7) Forgive someone I should have forgiven a long time ago.  Life is short. When someone does wrong to us and then we choose not to let go the only person we really punish is ourselves.  One life secret for you here, free of charge:  forgiveness is not only about doing right by the person who wronged us, it’s about doing right for ourselves.  Forgiving the person who hurt you allows you to say “Even though you hurt me, I will not hold it against you.”  That doesn’t mean we don’t recognize that they hurt us.  It means we choose to get past it, to move on.  We may choose not to be friends anymore, and that’s ok, but we choose not to let it rule us.  Today, forgiveness may not be what someone else wants, but it’s what I want and what I deserve: I choose to forgive, and move on.  And shame on me for not doing it sooner.

8) Be joyful, giddy, or at least happy about something that will be done today just for the sheer joy of doing it.  Maybe I will watch a stupid movie?  (Dumb and Dumber?  White Chicks?  Spaceballs?)  Maybe play that guitar way too loudly with my windows open?  Maybe have lunch with friends that I’ve put off for too long?  Because I can!

So that’s my plan for the day: to give myself permission to make it a good one.  And maybe next time I should not wait for my birthday: maybe I ought to do this because it’s good for me, and because I should anyway.  And maybe you should join me?

Posted in birthday | 2 Comments

Gun Control and 3D Printing: The Genie is Almost Out of the Bottle

Newtown.  Columbine.  Jonesboro.  Virginia Tech.  Gun control.  Just do a Google search; you will get millions of hits.  Now search this:  3D printed gun parts.  It’s true: it’s a possibility.  A group of hobbyists is working on designs now and has already fabricated a few key components.  Here’s a link at The Verge that tells more.

The short version: it’s possible and already being prototyped.  All you need is a 3D printer: $10,000 for one ready to go, or for the really creative you can build your own for a thousand dollars or two worth of parts.  The article I linked to discussed a receiver, one key part that is regulated in automatic weapons.  All of the other parts can be bought today and are legal to purchase.  However, my prediction is that once a receiver is built it won’t be long until the other required parts can be fabricated or repurposed from other intended uses.  For instance, if you want to build a firearm to be used in close quarters you don’t really need a long barrel with rifling, just a tube.  And only the first few inches next to the receiver require any reinforcing (duct tape, anyone?); the rest is just to guide the bullet and help aim.  And it will be just as easy to fabricate an ammo clip with a 3d printer as a receiver, likely easier.

How far have these builders come?  The prototype in the article was able to fire 6 rounds before cracking.  However, it is believed that as these hobbyists gain skill their builds will become more robust.  In a matter of weeks or months they will be able to build a receiver that will last for hundreds or thousands of rounds, and when it breaks they can print another for … ten dollars?  Five?  All they need are the raw materials and a bit of time.

Why does this matter?  For starters, how will you control who can and can’t build the parts?  How will gun control be handled when you can literally print a gun in the privacy of your own home or workshop?  How can you control weapons when anyone with access to $10,000 of computer hardware can just build one?  The cork is being removed as we speak; the genie’s smoke is already rising.

For sake of disclosure, I must say I do not own a handgun, though I do own several rifles and shotguns and carry a valid hunting license.  I will not engage in any debate about the right to bear arms, or hunt, or why I believe or not in this practice.  However, the ultimate point I would make is this: the quantity and technologies for making guns are so widely available in this country it would take years or even decades to gather them all even if another one was never made or imported again.  Until we address why the finger on the trigger wants to pull it, we are just wasting time.  Do I believe gun control will help?  For some types of crimes, certainly, and for other crimes not in the least.  But in the long run our failure as a society to fix this is due to much more than how easy it is to find a gun here.  Until we figure out how to fix the mind behind the gun, the trigger will continue to be pulled.

Posted in gun control | Leave a comment

The Best Political Example

The day after a political race is always interesting.  Some people quietly breathe a sigh of relief.  Some people are sad.  Some stand in front of the world and scream “Take that!  And you deserve it, you idiots!”  Today we see some people gloating, some hiding, and some forgetting they promised to leave the country if their candidate lost…!  But for me, there is a different example I want to remember and remind you about.

I remember a family that lived near us.  Their children were my friends and schoolmates and we attended the same church, so it was natural to spend time at their house.  Mr. and Mrs. Young always made us feel welcome at their place.  One day a number of us were there, visiting and having a good time.  I noticed Mr. Young sitting in his big easy chair, and just behind him was a bookcase of family pictures, mementos, and books.  One of the pictures caught my eye: it was Jimmy Carter, the President of the United States of America.  As best I remember it showed him standing next to his wife, Rosalyn.  I was surprised; I never thought of Mr. Young as being the least bit political.  I asked him “Is that the president?  Why do you have his picture?  Did you vote for him?”  I will never forget what he told me.

“Well, I don’t talk much about my vote, but we wrote to the White House and asked for a picture.  I put it there to remind us to pray for him and his people every day”.  He went on to explain to me the importance of supporting the president with our prayers, and even if we don’t agree with everything he does, we should be respectful and decent.  We may debate the wisdom of his actions, but personal criticisms were not acceptable.  I never heard if he voted for the man or not, but sure enough, when Ronald Reagan was elected a new picture was put up, and a new name was added to their prayer list.

My thoughts for you: whether you believe in God or not, please consider the example of Mr. and Mrs. Young, who prayed for the president just because he was the president.  What a great example to set for all of us!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bye-bye to the Dell Mini 10v

I have written in the past about my experience with the Dell Mini 10v. I have enjoyed the hackintosh experience with it, but I’m moving on. My boss bought me a new iPad with 3G, so I no longer need to netbook, so… time to sell! The Dell Mini 10v I have includes the original 160 Gb drive with a Microsoft OS, plus a 250 Gb drive (installed!) that is already hackintosh’d and running OSX 10.6.7. I will also include a nice nylon carrying bag, the charger, and all of the original paperwork for $200 US. I’ll give this one week, then it’s off to eBay!

Comment to me with any questions and I’ll be notified ASAP. I will pay to ship anywhere in the continental US with a UPS or USPS shipping. Don’t wait too long!

Time to sell the Dell Mini 10v


Posted in hackintosh, OS X, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Big 5-0: Time to be Thankful

Today I turned 50. While at face value it would seem like a fun day, I’ve never been a big fan of birthday celebrations. As a child a birthday was usually more likely to disappoint, what with the high expectations that children often get. You know the scene: child walks into party, everyone yells happy birthday, then someone drops his cake, the “birthday pony” turns into a package of underwear that don’t fit, and then a spanking is given because even though it’s your party, you cannot actually cry if you want to. Even my best celebration ever (age 40) seemed to sour over time: most of the friends that came to that party don’t even speak with me now after a nasty church split happened a couple of years later (to be blogged at a later date…much later!). Believe me, I do not look forward to the annual celebration.

Maybe the disappointments from the early birthdays have helped the presents matter less and less? I have been known to go pick out my own so my wife and kids know exactly what to get me. This year I got a nice watch (Japanese: I would feel uncomfortable and pretentious with a Swiss timepiece) and some clothes that were on sale when we were in Branson a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I’m becoming more practical, too? I think about some of the other gifts I have had in previous years, and my favorite is an electric guitar kit my wife bought me. I still have that guitar, and while my assembly could have been more skilled, it means a lot to me because she and my kids got it for me, and since we are all musicians it has greater meaning for me.

One of my favorite ways to celebrate usually involves just trying to be alone. Magnum P.I. had the best way to celebrate: get up early, grab the surf/sail board, get dropped 5 miles out at sea, and then spend the rest of the day paddling around in circles to avoid everyone else! Sometimes I do this, but in my own way: I drive out early to the river and fly fish alone, enjoying the quiet and solitude while smoking a cigar (lighten up: it’s the one time or place I smoke). Being alone on this day allows me to look inward, reflect, and think about the stuff that matters most to me. Yes, it’s a bit selfish, but hey, it’s my birthday! Dinner will be had later in the day either just with my wife and kids and perhaps my brother. This year we will meet my folks for dinner somewhere early, then head back home to wrap up the day.

Spending time alone on my birthday gives me a chance to look back at the previous 12 months, and this year is no exception. Work goes well, and though some things in my department could be going better I recognize that my team is doing a very good job. My church continues to grow which is especially comforting to me. The church split I mentioned led to our former pastor recruiting almost every person under the age of 40 away to a new startup, and it’s taken a few years for growth to begin again; it’s good to move on. Looking back for a bit helps me look forward, and thinking about what was helps me resolve to work on what could be.

It’s also nice to think about the people and situations that have taken me to today. The advent of Facebook has given me a chance to reconnect with some of these old friends, and I’m very appreciate to have these people back in my life. Carol and Janice are part of a rotating lunch crew that meets every month or so, and they knew me from “back in the day” when we were all in high school. They do a good job of keeping me grounded if I should get a little too uppity…! Randy is a coworker who I also went to high school with. I’m a manager in my current job, but Randy has a way of reminding me of what I was like in high school, when he and our friend James could beat me up!

Facebook has also allowed me to reconnect with old college and church friends. Connie went to my high school, but I also knew her from my old church in South West Little Rock and because she was friends with my “first best friend”, Melinda (she and I met when we were in diapers!). I wish I was more like Connie. She is fighting cancer again, but never lets it bring her down, at least not for very long. Her posts on Facebook always seem to lift me up somehow, even when she is suffering. If anyone has the right to complain it would be her, but she is the first to say “Get over it”, and does.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say a bit more about Melinda. My first memory of having a friend over as a child was her. Since her mother and mine were good friends we got to spend time together, and since we went to the same church we just always seemed to be around. As we moved up a few grades there were times we ran in different circles, but after spending 10 minutes together we always seemed to pick right back up from where we were before. Even now it still happens: we sat next to each other at a funeral, and in between the tears over a friend’s passing we were laughing and giggling! Never, EVER sit next to Melinda and I at a funeral!

Looking back to appreciate the good friends usually leads me to think about my family, starting with my wife. I am the first person to admit “I married up!”, and anyone who knows her would agree…! My boys, the twins, also do a good job of helping me be me. Unfortunately, they have inherited my gift of snark: their sense of humor and sarcasm is developing all too quickly.

I think this might be a good time to post a picture of one of the other gifts I got today on my 50th birthday from my wife and sons. I would remind them “Paybacks are hell!”.

Proof of age!

Posted in birthday, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Grammar Nazi!

I try to avoid posts that merely link back to another writer’s post, but I couldn’t resist on this one.

I am not quite as severe about grammar as this fellow, but I have to admit that bad grammar can make you look stupid. Enjoy!

Posted in writing | 1 Comment