"The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up." -Mark Twain
Posted at 12:00 pm by Rob in Main
When I arrived in Weatherford at Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) in the fall of 1993, I immediately enrolled in the college’s newspaper class because I had already taken “newspaper class” four times at Redlands Community College and thought that if you were pursuing a degree in journalism and wanted to work on the school’s newspaper that’s what you did. It turns out you don’t get credit for taking the same class over and over again (even if you really like it), and I had simply been paying to work on the newspaper at Redlands. (My professor and friend Kelly Rupp got me a paying job as the editor for both the newspaper and the yearbook there, so it all came out in the wash.)
My memories of SWOSU are a distant, hazy dream. I attended classes there for one full year; according to my transcript from Oklahoma City Community College, I earned a total of 12 credits during those two semesters. Other than journalism, photography, and one particularly hellish biology class, I can’t remember any of the other classes I took. I don’t even have a copy of my SWOSU transcript. Neither the beginning or the end of a journey, SWOSU was more of a rest stop — a temporary place to stretch my legs, refuel, check the map, and figure out where to drive next.
The vast majority of my time on the SWOSU campus was spent in the journalism department. The room had a long table full of Macintosh computers reserved for editing and writing and some other tables and chairs for sitting, working, and visiting. During my brief tenure as the school’s yearbook editor I had my own desk in the corner of the room, before I was unceremoniously (yet deservedly) removed from that position. I don’t remember if the building or room was locked after hours but I remember being there many times after the sun had gone down; if it was ever locked, more than one person had a key.
The seniors in the department ruled the roost. Having run a weekly paper before they knew what was going on, what needed to be done and when it needed to happen. Then there were the freshman who were new and lost. Because I was older than they were they looked to me for guidance, which is not unlike asking an old homeless beggar where the best hotels in town are. In those days a year or two made all the difference in the world. Entire pecking orders were decided by the weeks and months between children’s birthdays.
And then there was Don Price. I have no idea how old Don was, but back then I would have guessed “50ish.” I recall him having a teenage son, so “40ish” is probably closer to the truth. He had gray hair and was overweight, which made me think he was old. I had gray hair and was overweight by the age of 25. At 42, I’m more gray than black, and more overweight than gray.
Don walked with a cane, though I don’t know why. At the other end of the building were the soda vending machines, and one of Don’s favorite sayings was, “If you’re flyin’, I’m buyin’!” With that, Don would hold out a couple of dollar bills, and whoever was willing to run down the hallway to the vending machines would purchase two cans of pop — one for Don and one for themselves. At the time I wondered where Don got all this disposable income from, and thought it neat that Don was always willing to buy drinks for fellow students. In retrospect I see he was simply paying kids a dollar to run and fetch drinks for him. I offer my kids loose change all the time to get me refills of Kool-Aid and have paid cash bounties for finding lost television remotes, so now I get it. If I still drank Dr. Pepper like I used to I would pay people $1 all the time to go get me one.
Don was a cool guy to have around the journalism department. At a time when alternative and grunge were in heavy rotation on the journalism department’s stereo, it was Don who brought in a Billie Holiday cassette and explained to us what the “Strange Fruit” was. Don was always laughing and always had a funny story to share. I even replaced the stereo in his car for him once. As I recall it was the world’s simplest car stereo wiring job, with only a couple of 6x9s in the rear deck. I did the install in my driveway and I think he insisted on giving me twenty bucks. Back when adding bologna to Ramen noodles was considered a treat, $20 was no joke. In the Festiva, it was 3 tanks of gas.
I graduated from high school in 1991 and left Southwestern with my tail between my legs in the spring of 1994. By the time I went back to Oklahoma City Community College to finish my associate degree in 2000, I was already ten years older than most of the other students in my classes. The age differential wasn’t too bad at Southern Nazarene University as I attended an adult studies program and all of my classmates were working adults earning their degrees, but I have never felt more self conscious on a college campus as I did yesterday at the University of Oklahoma.
During lunch I zipped down to the campus to pick up my student ID. As I neared the school what I thought were children waving signs advertising a free car wash turned out to be college students welcoming incoming freshman to the school. I rubbed my eyes. Could these children actually be old enough to attend college? I barely thought they looked old enough to run a free car wash!
Walking past one kid trying to figure out how a parking meter worked and another one carrying a skateboard, I made my way inside to pick up my ID. My eyes scanned the hallways for anyone older, fatter or grayer than me, but there was no one. I was the oldest, the fattest, the grayest. After finding the line for student IDs, I finally spotted a woman roughly my age. She was there enrolling her son.
Each student before me in line was greeted the same way: “I need to see your ID,” and “That’ll be $20.” When I got to the counter I got a different greeting.
“Can I help you, sir?”
Oh boy — now I’m “sir.” And then it hit me. I’m not a “sir” at all. I’m Don Price. I’m the old guy in the room. I’m the guy who’s there because he wants to be. I’ll be the guy with practical experience and life history. I interned as a reporter for both the El Reno Light and El Reno Tribune newspapers in 1992 and 1993, 20+ years ago — likely before many of my classmates were born.
While leaving the building I noticed that many of the soda machines now take credit cards. I’ve got plenty of disposable plastic to feed them. If these kids are flyin’, I’m buyin’.
Now let’s talk about that music on the stereo…
(If anyone knows the whereabouts of Don Price who attended Southwestern Oklahoma City University during the early 1990s, please contact me.)
Posted at 6:00 am by Rob in Vision
While I’m sure some think I took the day off from work yesterday because of my wedding anniversary, the primary reason I was off was to have more vision tests performed.
Yesterday was my third trip to the Dean McGee Eye Institute. On my first visit I was diagnosed with profoundly advanced macular degeneration in my left eye, and on my second visit, with additional tests (including one where yellow dye was injected for the purposes of studying the blood vessels in my eye more closely) I was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a genetic condition that causes early macular degeneration and inevitably leads to blindness. On yesterday’s visit, my third to the institute, I was administered an ElectroRetinaGram, or ERG test.
Prior to that test, I repeated the tests I’ve performed during my other visits. First up was a standard vision test. I scored 20/25 in my good eye, and 20/2000 in my bad eye although I was able to increase that number to a whopping 20/125 by using my peripheral vision. Next up was a new test, the Ishihara Color Blindness Test. You’ve probably seen this test on the internet before; it consists of picking out numbers written with circles of one color presented on top of a background of circles of another color. Apparently, color blindness goes hand-in-hand with Stargardt’s. I had no trouble with the color test, a good sign for now. After these tests were performed, my eyes were dilated and then after receiving a few numbing drops, some rubber thing poked my eyeballs a few times.
Next, the ERG.
The ERG is performed in a small office with barely enough room for two people. Spouses get to wait in the waiting room for the duration of the test; fortunately for Susan, Dean McGee has a steady stream of Gilligan’s Island, Three’s Company and Green Acres reruns playing in rotation out there. No such luck back in the ERG testing room. Instead of old reruns, I was treated to multiple rounds of eye numbing drops. Every couple of minutes while making small talk with the gentleman who administers the test I received another round of eye drops.
After fifteen or twenty minutes and with my eyeballs now both numb and dilated, custom contact lenses were inserted into my eyes. I’ve never worn contacts before so the sensation of having someone else insert something into my eye felt odd. Fortunately by this time my eyes were so numb I couldn’t feel anything. The lenses further distorted my vision, thanks in part to the wires connected directly to them. After the lenses were inserted, another dozen or so monitor wires were connected to my face and ears.
I found a picture on the internet of a women with one of the lenses installed, preparing for the test.
By the way, if you’re wondering how a person blinks with bulky contacts (with wires protruding from them) inserted into their eyes, the answer is, you can’t. For the next 10-15 minutes I was unable to blink. Again due to the numbness of my eyes this wasn’t as physically uncomfortable as it was psychologically disturbing. That scene toward the end of A Clockwork Orange came to mind.
With negotiations performed, it was time to dance. The first of two tests required me to stare into a small screen with my eyes focused on a small red dot. Although I was assured the dot was small, to me it looked like the sun. Then, while staring at the light, different flashes of light appeared. I was told that these flashes of very specific wavelengths of light were being used to stimulate the rods and cones in my eye. I thought about the poor inner workings of my eyes who were no doubt trying to make sense of this odd exposure to flashing lights in the darkness. The final exposure, proceeded by a nonchalant “You’re not epileptic, are you?” was a 10-15 second barrage of quickly flashing lights. Even without having one’s eyes dilated and forced open staring directly into a quickly flashing strobe light would be uncomfortable; having a hundred flashes of light going off in a matter of seconds in a dark room left me seeing stars for a minute or two.
The next test was I believe what was called an LKC Test, although I also believe LKC to be the company that devised the test. For this test a large, high-resolution computer monitor was placed directly in front of me. The picture on the monitor consisted of a grid of hexagons alternately colored black and white, with a large red “X” laid over the top of the picture. Each time the doctor clicked a button, the hexagons alternated rapidly, randomly flashing between black and white for roughly ten seconds. This was done approximately twenty times. Again this test was more headache-inducing than physically painful.
This is a picture from LKC’s website showing the pattern, although this specific picture appears to show some sort of magnification lens in front of the monitor. My test had no such lens.
After this test was performed, the lenses were finally removed. The doctor said my eyes might feel “goopy” for a while. I asked him if this was an official medical term and he confirmed it was. The final round of eye drops consisted of water to flush the eyes. Throughout the entirety of my visit I think I received somewhere between ten and twelve eye drops per eye.
Next I was sent back to the waiting room where, after a short wait, I was called back to see the doctor who reviewed my results. Unfortunately, the test confirmed the previous diagnosis. After again mentioning “I can’t believe you can still see so well out of your right eye,” the doctor reminded me that this will not be the case forever, and down the road I will definitely be making some life adjustments as my Stargardts worsens with time. Each time I tell the doctor I cannot make out the vision test or his face with my left eye, he reminds me my good eye will be the same in another decade or so.
While the test was over by noon, I spent the rest of the day with blurry vision and a minor headache. Even with (2x) reading glasses, it was nearly impossible to read anything on my phone or a restaurant menu. Several hours later, after resting my eyes and taking a short nap, my vision had mostly returned to normal.
My normal, anyhow.
Posted at 6:00 am by Rob in Main
I’ve never had more trouble writing a single blog post than I’ve had writing this one. In the dozen or so openings I’ve scrapped so far I’ve compared my relationship with my wife to the ebb and flow of the ocean, two symbiotic fish, and, in one particularly dorky attempt, two celestial bodies orbiting one another.
Yes. I tried comparing my marriage to a couple of meteors.
According to Susan, she knew the two of us were going to get married the first time our paths crossed in seventh grade. I, on the other hand, still wasn’t sure we were going to get married while I was in the back room of the church, chugging Jack Daniels out of a three-liter Dr. Pepper bottle and waiting for the preacher to give us the cue that it was time to come out.
Our adventures together started even before that day. By the time we got married we had already driven out west to see the Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns and up north to see Chicago, but the adventures never really stopped. Since we moved in together in 1993, Susan and I have visited 49 of the 50 states (not to mention Canada, Mexico, and the Bahamas). We’ve drug our children along to at least 40 of them. Since that day we’ve lived together in a mobile home, a 110-year-old house in El Reno, an apartment, my father’s spare bedroom (for a month), and in three different houses in Yukon.
And while it’s easy to remember the big adventures — climbing a glacier in Denver, snorkeling off the Florida Keys, whale watching in Alaska — what I enjoy as much if not more are the little adventures. For every redwood we’ve seen in California there’s been a beer shared on our back patio, watching sunsets. I love the vacations and trips and the big stuff, but the little stuff — discovering restaurants and shopping at thrift stores and driving around randomly in search of little adventures — are every bit as much fun.
Twenty years of fun, in fact. Here’s to those and another twenty, and another twenty after that.
Happy 20th anniversary, fellow adventurer.
Posted at 6:12 am by Rob in Main
Last night for back to school night Susan and I took the kids to iHop for dinner. For some reason they think having pancakes and bacon for dinner is a real treat. Maybe they’re on to something.
We were greeted at the door by a short lady with both the face and the disposition of an angry bulldog. “How many,” she snarled. Despite the fact that it wasn’t presented as a question, we answered and found our way to a table.
We ordered dinner right around 5pm, and no food was on our table at 5:30pm. For at least ten minutes, all we could hear in the restaurant was the cook fighting with the waitresses. Around 5:35 most our food had begun to arrive, although the last 25% trickled out over the next five minutes as the waitress went around the table asking each person what they were missing. Mason was missing his bacon and Morgan was missing her toast. Unfortunately for me my pancakes weren’t missing; they had obviously been cooked the minute we walked through the door and had been sitting somewhere getting cold and hard for the past 30 minutes. During our entire time there (roughly 45 minutes) the kids got one refill. I wish I could attribute all of this to the place being packed, but when we arrived we were one of only two tables that I could see.
Total for dinner with tip was roughly $50.
I wish I could attribute this to one isolated incident, but it seems to me like most of the places we eat at have raised their prices and hired the absolutely least competent employees they could find.
Last week, we went to El Chico for dinner. We like El Chico, or at least used to. The first bad sign was six or seven tables in one section all being handled by one waitress. We sat waiting for 10 minutes before ever talking to the waitress. By the time she came by the table we were ready to order so we tried ordering our dinner and drinks at the same time, but were stopped cold. “I’ll take your food order after I take theirs,” she said, nodding toward the next table.
She was a waitress full of apologies. “Sorry about the wait.” “Sorry this took so long.” “Sorry I forgot your food.” “Sorry we are understaffed.” “Sorry it’s so hot in here.” “Sorry about the refills.”
The people next to us asked the waitress for some extra napkins. The next time she came by they asked for some extra salsa, and the napkins. The next time she came by they asked for some more cheese, some extra salsa, and the napkins. “Sorry!” “Whoops, sorry!” “Sorry about that!” Our luck was no better. “Sorry, I’ll bring you some more chips.” Why bother? We’ve been out of cheese and salsa all night.
We left a 10% tip. “Sorry!” Fortunately our bill was only $40 this time as the waitress forgot to put our drinks on the ticket and wrote one of the dinners up incorrectly. We didn’t correct her.
Over the weekend we had lunch at Arby’s and met Scott. Scott works the front counter at Arby’s and believe me, he would rather be anywhere else on earth than taking people’s orders at Arby’s.
Susan: “Yes, we would like a combo number one, a…”
Scott: “hold ON.”
With each drink we ordered, Scott slammed another cup down on the counter. I went to go find a seat because I was already tired of Scott’s attitude. There are 8 tables in Arby’s that are not booths. We sat at the only clean one.
Five minutes after we started eating, Scott let us know he was cleaning the other tables by coming out to the dining room and kicking the metal chairs around on the tile floor, shoving them this way and that way with so much noise that conversation became impossible. Just when we thought he was almost done, Scott kicked a chair so hard that it toppled over directly behind us, causing a crash so loud it made all of us jump out of our seats. Did we get an apology, a “Sorry!” or even an “oops?” Ha ha ha, you’ve not met Scott. No, after setting the chair back up he went back to his funny-to-watch technique of swinging his wash cloth wildly, knocking any remaining bits of food off into the floor in every direction.
At one point Morgan had to go up to the front counter to get some condiment. She was greeted by Scott’s backside, who was sitting on the counter facing away from customers. The girl working drive-thru was the one of finally helped her.
I won’t even get into our recent trip to Taco Bueno, where the front booth (with six children and no adults in it) was being used as a make-shift daycare for employees, and the temperature inside the restaurant was 80+ degrees.
I know part of this is me. I like places like Poquito’s and Chileno’s and the Chiner, places where we can walk in, get a decent meal at a decent price, and be waited on by people with a smile (or at least not a frown). Sadly it seems like this is no longer the norm. I don’t expect a song and dance from my waitstaff, but if you’re only going to make my day worse rather than better, I’m not coming back.
Posted at 7:00 am by Rob in Main
Last week I picked up a book from the library about removing clutter from your life called Clutter Free by Kathi Lipp. It’s been an interesting read. As long time readers of this blog know, I’ve had quite the struggle with accumulating and collecting too many things — although technically, I don’t struggle at all with accumulating the things, it’s figuring out what to do with them, where to put them, and how to part with them that’s really the struggle. Acquiring them is no struggle at all!
Clutter Free suggests one reason some people have trouble parting with things is that when it comes time to part with an item, they ask the wrong questions. Often times people ask themselves things like “Would the person who gave this to me be upset if they knew I got rid of it?” or “Do you know how much I spent on this item?” Instead, Lipp suggests you only ask the following three question for any item you are considering parting with:
– Do you love it?
– Do you use it?
– Would you buy it again?
It’s an interesting approach, although for people like myself (who love everything), I’m not sure how effective it will be. I can tell you that shortly after reading the chapter about getting rid of clothes I promptly emptied out my drawer full of “shorts that might fit and/or come back in style someday” and already sent them to Goodwill.
One chapter of the book is a list of 30 things you can part with right now. Some of the tips, like “ink cartridges to printers you no longer own” and “any toys from the Dollar store,” make sense. Others, like “any DVDs you haven’t watched in the past year” and “old computer parts,” are… well, I’m sure she means well.
In the book Lipp also challenges her readers to get rid of 2,000 things a year, or approximately 5.5 things a day. To keep things fair, the author says that items with lots of pieces (a jigsaw puzzle, for example) only count as one item and not 1,000. With this mentality parting with clutter almost becomes a game, although I have to think I could do this for a decade and still not get out of the garage. I got rid of eleven pairs of shorts today so I have one day to think about it. If you’re allowed to count things like individual markers and what not from the junk drawer, I’ll bet I could do 2,000 items before the end of the year, starting in August.
Yes, I think I’ll try that.
Posted at 12:00 pm by Rob in Main
What follows will surely be the world’s most detailed review of Egg-Tastic, the Ceramic Microwave Egg Cooker (As Seen on TV).
Background: My life was forever changed a few years ago when my wife bestowed the sacred knowledge upon me that scrambled eggs could be cooked in a microwave. I did not know this. I don’t even know how I made it to the age of 41 without knowing this, but somehow I did. And while most (all) people prefer scrambled eggs that have been prepared in a skillet on the stove, cooking them in the microwave has its own allure: it dirties less dishes, and is quicker.
Unfortunately, cooking eggs in a microwave (if not done properly) tends to also cook the eggs right onto the side of the bowl. This can be mitigated to a degree with PAM, but when we’re talking about making breakfast in under two minutes, time counts. This has led to a pile of bowls in the sink with egg fragments the consistency of dried rubber cement attached to them.
I can’t remember if I’ve actually seen this thing on television before, but I’ve seen it at Dollar General, Walmart, and a few other places. It’s always the same price ($10) and always makes the same bold claims: that it delivers “Fast, Flavorful & Fluffy Eggs Every Time… Right In Your Microwave.”
$10 later, here we are.
The magic, as you can clearly see on one side of the box, is under the lid. This cutaway diagram of the Egg-Tastic scientifically shows, through the use of multiple arrows, that lids keep hot air in. Under the arrows it is explained to us that the Egg-Tastic contains an “exclusive vented lid.” The word “exclusive” implies that this is the only device on the market with a hole in the lid.
Another side of the package shows other great dishes that can be created with the Egg-Tastic, such as poached eggs, scrambled egg whites, and egg sandwiches. These pictures are here to inform you that eggs can be eaten other ways besides right out of the Egg-Tastic with a spoon, which was absolutely my plan. The Egg-Tastic cooks eggs, period; stating that one can eat eggs on a sandwich is a bit redundant. Now that I think about it, you can eat them in a bowl, on a plate, from a shoe, while standing on your head, in a swimming pool, at the park… it really seems limitless, once you think about it. Where does a company draw the line?
I guess they drew it right after “in a bowl,” because there’s a picture of scrambled eggs in a bowl here. Also, either that bowl is tiny, or someone has multiple Egg-Tastics. And microwaves.
With millions of ways to eat eggs (on a horse, in a hotel, in the back of a pickup…) you might be starting to worry that preparing all of these eggs takes a lot of steps. Or even four! But no, there are only three, and they are easy: crack eggs into the Egg-Tastic and mix them up, microwave the eggs, and enjoy the eggs. That third rule seems like more of a suggestion than a rule per se.
It is also good to know that this ceramic egg cooking vessel from Dollar General doesn’t add fat, grease or oil to the eggs. Got it.
Alright, let’s get to it.
(Sound of car brakes screeching here.)
There’s a lot of information on this label that needs to be read and digested before proceeding.
First is a warning telling us to remove the label before use.
Second is a stop sign that warns us to read the instruction manual for cooking times before use.
Third is a URL to EggTasticTips.com for more information and cooking tips.
Finally, the unique serial number is included on this sticker. You might want to write that down in case someone steals your Egg-Tastic and you need to report it to the police for insurance purposes. Also a lot of Egg-Tastics look similar, so if you are put in the position of going down to the police station to identify your stolen property, having this serial number could help you recover this $10 item.
Also after removing the lid you will find three more documents inside Egg-Tastic.
This handy card shows you the approximate cook times of 1-4 eggs in microwaves with three different wattages. I have no idea what the wattage of our microwave is. This card should be kept in a safe location, probably near wherever you are keeping the serial number of your Egg-Tastic.
Next up are your rights as a consumer and user of the Egg-Tastic and an arbitration agreement. The top of the paper (written in all caps, so you can tell it’s really important) lets you know that you are bound to the rules and clauses contained on this piece of paper by keeping the Egg-Tastic for more than 14 days. It goes on to explain all the rules that you must follow if you plan on suing them, and says that you waive your right to sue the company, that you cannot participate in a class action lawsuit against the makers of the Egg-Tastic, and so-on. I would like to know if there is any legal precedence to legal documents shoved in the bottom of ceramic egg cookers.
Before I start thinking too hard about the legal ramifications of a folded up piece of paper, let’s move on to the instructions.
We start off with 12 important safeguards, reminding us that microwaving eggs is no joke. Among other warnings, we are reminded that this ceramic pot, after cooking eggs in the microwave, could become hot. Children should not use Egg-Tastic. The Egg-Tastic should only be used in home microwave ovens. If you should observe sparking, please turn off the microwave and stop using Egg-Tastic.
Next up is a “breakdown of components,” of which there are two: the pot, and the lid. There’s a handy diagram there, in case you were confused as to which part was which. Many people have been seriously burned over the years by using the Egg-Tastic upside-down.
Then there are “cleaning instructions,” which tell you to put the Egg-Tastic in the dishwasher or wash it by hand.
But wait — there’s more!
On the BACK of the page are MORE instructions! Here there are FOUR steps (which contradict the THREE STEPS we were promised on the outside of the box)! It is also reenforced that enjoying your eggs is an actual step and not an option.
At this point the Egg-Tastic has come with more documentation or instructions than any desk I have ever purchased and had to assemble.
Lastly down at the bottom of the page is another copy of the cooking guide and the URL to Egg-Tastic’s website. More on that momentarily.
So let’s cook some eggs.
My wife is a fan of the “keep the used eggshells in the container” method of shell disposal, so despite me thinking there were a dozen eggs left, there were only two. Good enough! Into the Egg-Tastic they went! I then mixed them up with a fork because I planned on eating them with the same fork. The sound of the fork mixing the eggs on the ceramic inside was not unlike nails on a chalkboard.
Here are the eggs inside the microwave. I was going to take a picture of the Egg-Tastic inside the microwave with the door open but it looks like one of the kids microwaved a burrito or something in there because there are meat and beans everywhere. Suddenly the Egg-Tastic’s lid seems more valuable; it can let the steam out by also keeping old beans from entering the egg.
I opened the microwave and was instantly hit with the smell of freshly microwaved eggs. Even if you don’t enjoy microwaved eggs, you might pick up the Egg-Tastic as an alternative to potpourri.
The eggs were definitely not stuck to the sides of Egg-Tastic, as I could easily pick the entire egg chunk in one single piece with a fork and see underneath it. I added a bit of cheese to the top and some hot sauce and went to town. As far as microwaved eggs go, these were definitely microwaved eggs.
This has been an unsolicited review of the Egg-Tastic Ceramic Microwave Egg Cooker. By reading this review you are waiving your legal rights to sue me.
Posted at 11:15 am by Rob in Main
Twenty years ago, I gave up on college. By the spring of 1994 I had attended two years of school at Redlands Community College and one year at South Western Oklahoma State University, and still didn’t have enough credits or the right combination of classes for a two year degree. After three years of college I had run out of time and money. I quit school and joined the workforce full time.
Me, in college.
In the year 2000 (nine years after I had originally started attending college), Susan sat down with copies of my transcripts and ran the numbers. “You only need like five more classes to graduate,” she said. With help from Susan I enrolled at Oklahoma City Community College, and one semester later I was the proud recipient of an Associate in Arts Degree in Journalism and Broadcasting.
(My overall GPA from Redlands was 3.25, and at Weatherford I had a dismal 2.75. At OKCCC I earned a 3.75 — four As and one B.)
Roughly five years later, Susan suggested that I enroll at Southern Nazarene University. SNU had a night program designed for working adults. After Susan finished her degree at SNU, I started mine. I attended night classes for 13 months, and in the spring of 2005 I graduated from SNU with a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership. My GPA at SNU was a 4.0, but my accumulative GPA (thanks to the classes I blew off 10-15 years prior) was a 3.485. Fortunately a 3.485 gets rounded up to 3.5, and I graduated with honors (Cum Laude).
I used to say that college didn’t directly help me in my career. I was performing the same work both before I started college and long after I graduated, so finding any direct correlation between college and rewards at work was difficult. I didn’t get a raise or promotion or bonus or even a high-five at work for earning my degree. The government simply doesn’t work that way. Looking back I can say that I have definitely been able to apply some of the knowledge and skills acquired in school to my job. While there may not have been a one-to-one relationship between advances in my education and advances at work, certainly school was not a waste of time.
I’ve been lucky and fortunate to find work that I enjoy. I’ve been hooked on home computers since my dad brought home that TRS-80 Model III back in 1980. Something about computers clicked for me, and whether it’s been physically running cable and setting up networks in the, doing security and vulnerability scans and reports, helping manage a nationwide network, deploying hundreds of virtual servers or simply troubleshooting everything from name resolution issues in Alaska to authentication errors in Germany, I’ve done it and I’ve enjoyed doing it.
I’ve come to realize that enjoying your job and liking your job is not the same as loving your job. Again, I feel extremely blessed for landing the job I have, and on a scale of 1-10 despite the daily grumblings and frustrations that come with every job, I would say based on what I do and the money I make my job is a 9 out of 10.
Which means, somewhere out there is a 10.
Susan, the troublemaker that she is, recently discovered that the University of Oklahoma offers a Masters degree in Professional Writing. The degree is similar to (and was spun off from) their M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication, with an emphasis toward writers of “freelance fiction and nonfiction books, screenplays, magazine articles and short stories.” And man, does doing that for a living sound like a 10 to me.
The first step toward applying for this program is taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test. Last Monday, I signed up to take the test four days later on Friday. I immediately hit the internet for study guides and found two: “Mastering the GRE in 40 Days,” and “Your 12 Week GRE Study Guide.” My studying and cramming more closely resembled one of those Benny Hill skits in which everything ran in fast forward. Actually, it more closely resembled this:
I spent every spare moment over the past four days cramming for the GRE. I’ll write more about the test later, but I described my cramming for it as the abridged version of Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison. In that film, Sandler retakes every grade school class, spending two weeks in each grade. In my case, I had to re-learn every algebraic formula and geometric rule taught between 8th and 12th grade while learning a couple hundred new vocabulary words. The part of the the test that frightens most people — the free form essay portion — didn’t worry me in the slightest.
After four days of studying and almost four hours in a Prometrics testing center, I am proud to announce that I passed the GRE — “not with flying colors, but perhaps an 8-bit color spectrum,” as I joked on Twitter.
The next step is gathering my professional references and officially applying for the program. If everything goes according to plan I’ll be starting in the fall as a college student all over again. Of course I plan to continue working at my current job, probably for many years to come, but you never know what’s over the hill until you take that first step.
Hill, here I come.
Posted at 7:00 am by Rob in Main
On August 1st, 2015, my family and I attended the second annual Internet Cat Video Festival in Oklahoma City.
Everyone I have told that to has asked the same exact question: “Why?” My response has been, “Why does anybody do anything?” To be honest I don’t have the answer to either of those questions — it’s more of a diversionary tactic. Trust me, the entire time you’re sitting in a public park watching internet cat videos, you’ll be asking yourself “Why am I here?” the entire time as well.
If you’re asking yourself “What kind of person shows up for an Internet Cat Video Festival,” let me show you this picture I took:
That’s approximately 2,500 people sitting on the Great Lawn next to the Devon Tower, sitting around waiting for cat videos to start.
But to answer your question, all kinds of people attended. There were little kids and senior citizens. There were people wearing regular clothes, lots of people wearing t-shirts with cats on them, and a few people that went all with painted whiskers and cat tails. And then there was the lady wearing a black bra with cat faces on the front walking her dog on a leash, which puts her in a pretty unique spot on the Venn Diagram of internet cat fans:
The pre-show started at 7:30pm, ran for 90 minutes, and included live bands, food trucks, face painting, and hula-hooping. During this time people staked their land claims with blankets and lawn chairs.
At 9pm the flood lights were turned off, the big screen began to glow, and the cat videos began to play.
The video, created by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, contains approximately 75 minutes worth of funny cat videos. If you’ve ever watched America’s Funniest Home Videos or typed “funny cat videos” in YouTube, you have probably seen some subset of these videos. The video has been shown in fifteen cities in all, including Minneapolis, Oakland, Chicago, New York City and San Francisco. The festival typically teams up with local animal shelters and charities in each city, and the Oklahoma Central Humane Society made an appearance at ours.
Why would 2,500 people show up to a park in downtown Oklahoma City to watch cat videos that they could watch at home (or not at all)?
Why does anybody do anything?
Posted at 7:00 am by Rob in Main
The first day Windows 10 was available for download, I upgraded my laptop from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. On day two, I upgraded the laptop I use for recording podcasts. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these laptops spend most of their time accessing online content — social media sites, music streaming, Google Docs and casual web surfing. Although both of these upgrades proved that Windows 10 was able to pluck drivers out of the cloud and apply them as needed (I didn’t need to manually find or install a single driver for either machine), they weren’t a good overall test for two reasons: I had re-installed Windows 10 from scratch on both machines (instead of performing an upgrade), and neither machine has a lot of installed software to test.
And so, Saturday evening, I upgraded my primary workstation to Windows 10.
[UPGRADE VS. FRESH INSTALL]
Installing a fresh copy of Windows — that is, formatting your computer’s hard drive and starting over from scratch — will always give you the best performance. That also means you’ll have to back up all of your data, and reinstall all of your programs (including tracking down all those pesky installation CDs and drivers that came with your computer). When you upgrade Windows, all your programs and data stay in place and come along for the ride. Unfortunately, so do any problems you may have had in the past. If your computer is running slow because you have 100 things running in the taskbar at all times, you’ll have 100 things running in the taskbar in Windows 10 as well. While upgrading may not offer the best performance in the end, it is definitely the most convenient way to upgrade your computer.
[PERFORMING THE UPGRADE]
If you opted in, Microsoft is slowly rolling Windows 10 out to every internet-connected machine running Windows 7 or newer. If you want to cut to the front of the line, you can download it directly from Microsoft here.
If you’re downloading Windows 10 and want the free upgrade, you’ll need to download the same version of Windows you currently have installed on your machine. By right-clicking on “My Computer” or “Computer,” you can see if you are running Windows Home or Pro, and if your operating system is 32 or 64 bit. Download the corresponding version to a USB stick or burn it to DVD and you’re ready to begin. Using your computer, go to the USB or DVD, double-click setup, and watch it go.
You’ll only have a few sets of questions to answer along the way, one of which is the security-related questions I mentioned in my previous Windows 10 post. There were nine features in all — I turned seven of them off because they sounded like horrible ideas, and the other two out of spite. One new feature of Windows 10 is the ability to share your wireless router’s password with your social media friends. No thanks.
My desktop, an Acer Aspire Desktop with a 2.6GHz quad-core processor, 6 gigs of RAM, and a terabyte hard drive took just over an hour to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Your mileage may vary.
[WHAT WENT WRONG]
My Matrox video card is apparently not supported by Windows 10. This isn’t really a Windows 10 issue, as apparently the card is also not supported by Windows 8. Had I upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8 three years ago, I would have run into the same problem. The manufacturer does not offer upgraded drivers for Windows 8 (or 10) — their solution is to “buy a newer card,” which I ultimately did.
[WHAT WENT RIGHT]
Pretty much everything else. All my programs came back. All my icons showed up where they previously were.
I run some old software — some sort of old and some really old. I run Photoshop CS2 (released in 2005) and it worked fine. I also still use LView Pro, an ancient graphic program released in 1996. It works fine, too. I have goofy batch files that launch goofy processes; those all worked. DOSBox and my Commodore 64 emulators work. Every single program I had running on Windows 7 Pro runs on Windows 10 Pro.
[WHAT WAS CONFUSING]
After I thought the installation was complete, my computer was running so slowly that I thought it had locked up. Turns out, updates still need to be downloaded and search indices still need to be built. That stuff takes time (and processing cycles). I would have been a lot less frustrated had I simply let the machine “cook” for 30 minutes or so before hopping in and trying to start working on things.
Not much more to say than that! For the techies in the bunch, below are the specs of the machines I upgraded to Windows 10:
Acer Aspire AS5732Z-4855 LX.PGU02.064 Laptop Computer – Intel Pentium Dual-Core T4300 2.1GHz, 4GB DDR2, 250GB HDD, DVDRW, 15.6″ Display, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Acer M3300-U1332 PT.SBT02.002 Aspire Desktop PC – AMD Phenom II X4 810 2.6GHz, 6GB DDR3, 1TB HDD, ATI Radeon HD 3200, DVDRW, 300 Watt PSU, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit
ASUS Q400A Laptop Computer – 3rd generation Intel Core i7-3632QM 2.2GHz, 8GB DDR3, 750GB HDD, DVDRW, 14 in. Display, Windows 8 64-bit
Posted at 8:45 am by Rob in Main
Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, was released yesterday. I’ve already installed it on my laptop, and although I haven’t had time to dig through every nook and cranny yet, here are my initial impressions of Microsoft’s latest and greatest.
WINDOWS 10 IS FREE FOR ONE YEAR
If you have Windows 7 or newer, upgrading to Windows 10 is free for one year. That will give you enough time for all the tech nerds to download it, install it, beta test it for Microsoft, and work out all the kinks before you upgrade. By offering it for free, Microsoft seems to both be apologizing for Windows 8 and suggesting that we’re all going to be running Windows 10 sooner or later, so you might as well get on board.
OBTAINING WINDOWS 10 IS SIMPLE
If you have Windows 7 or newer you may have seen a Windows icon pop up in your task bar. If you didn’t opt in there, you can simply download Windows 10 from Microsoft. If you use this link, you’re going to have to answer a few questions. The first is, what version of Windows 10 do you want: Home, or Professional? If you’re going the free upgrade you’ll want to pick the same edition you already have. Next you’ll have the option of selecting 32 bit, 64 bit, or both. Finally, the installer will ask if you will be installing from USB or want the DVD ISO. Note that if you combine the 32/64 bit versions, your download will be 6 gig (too large for a single-layer DVD). Also if you select the USB option you’ll need to provide the USB stick at that time.
INSTALLING WINDOWS 10 IS FAST AND SIMPLE
Over the past 20 years I can’t think of a Windows operating system that installed more quickly or painlessly. Pick your default language, the destination drive, put in a serial number and watch it go. Halfway through you’ll be prompted for a wireless connection, but that’s about it.
While the upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10 failed on my ASUS laptop, a fresh install went smoothly and quickly. Apparently, gone are the days of hunting down drivers from a manufacturer. Windows 10 just figured it out. Hopefully upgrades on my other machines go just as smoothly.
WINDOWS 10’S DEFAULT SECURITY SETTINGS ARE EGREGIOUSLY INVASIVE!
Toward the end of the installation process you’ll be asked if you want to accept the security defaults as suggested by Microsoft or choose your own answers in advanced mode. (Pro-tip: nerds always choose advance mode.) Here are the default settings for Windows 10:
01. Personalize your speech, typing, and inking input by sending contacts and calendar details, along with other associated input data to Microsoft: ON
02. Send typing and inking data to Microsoft to improve the recognition and suggestion platform: ON
03. Let apps use your advertising ID for experiences across apps: ON
04. Let Windows and apps request your location, including location history, and send Microsoft and trusted partners some location data to improve location services: ON
05: Use SmartScreen online services to help protect against malicious content and downloads in sites loaded by Windows browsers and Store apps: ON
06. Use page prediction to improve reading, speed up browsing, and make your overall experience better in Windows browsers. Your browsing data will be sent to Microsoft: ON
07. Automatically connect to suggested open hotspots. Not all networks are secure: ON
08. Automatically connect to networks shared by your contacts: ON
09 Send error and diagnostic information to Microsoft: ON
Wow. Wow wow wow.
Combined, this says “send everything you type, read, or do to Microsoft.” No thanks. I know we are headed to cloudville but … not today. And to be honest, normally I would select YES on sending error reports to Microsoft and the SmartScreen thing doesn’t sound like a bad idea but based on the invasive nature of all the others, I changed every one of them to NO. I’ll revisit this.
EVERY PROGRAM I HAVE WORKS
Again, I haven’t had days to go through everything, but so far every program I previously had still works.
WINDOWS 10 IS SMART AND FAST
First of all, it’s fast. Really fast. I haven’t turned on many of the bells and whistles yet, but right now, it’s fast. Everything feels streamlined.
The start menu is back. Clicking on it reminds me of the Windows 7 start menu with Windows 8 metro icons. I can live with that. Next to the start button is the search text box. Right from the desktop you can type “control panel” or “join a domain” or “uninstall something” and it comes up. Quickly. Nothing about Windows 8 made sense to me. Everything about Windows 10 so far makes sense. My initial impression is that I am really going to like it.
They also changed the icons on the taskbar. Now if you have an app open, it’s underlined. So smart. I love it.
SAY HELLO TO EDGE
Internet Explorer has been replaced by Internet Edge. Literally the first thing I did once I reached a desktop was install Google Chrome so I can’t tell you much about Edge yet, except it seems pretty fast and thin and was able to quickly download Google Chrome. ;) I’m sure I’ll mess around with Edge over the next few weeks just to make sure my websites render properly with it.
SHOULD I UPGRADE TODAY?
Probably not. There will be hurdles coming, I’m sure. Things will get tweaked and patched over the next few months. You have plenty of time to wait to upgrade. That being said, I’m upgrading every one of my Windows 8 machines today, and will probably do my Windows 7 desktop soon.