Mar 19, 2015

Happy Birthday Ethan

Today is Ethan's birthday. He is 5 years old. Below are two poems I wrote for Isaac and Ethan a few years ago.

In life there are many things that we do
Some are fun to share, others hard to leave
And some we can only know for ourselves
And the best I have known so far is this
Children reveal in us a love unique

Every child brings to the world,
Their special way of seeing.
Hold them close while you still can,
And teach them to show their love,
Not just to some, but to all.

Mar 10, 2015

Near Death Experience

I have this really vivid memory of driving back to South Bend from Angola one time. I made the trip a few times during my college years to visit and hang out with Ryan at Tri-State where he was attending. It was late at night and the highway was pretty much empty. I was on the part of the road which was divided and I saw an animal ahead of me crossing from the center. It might have been a dog or maybe a coyote or maybe a deer. I was in the left most lane and since the animal was moving left to right I decided to gently shift to the left a little bit to avoid hitting it. Nothing unusual, I went probably half way into the center shoulder and passed the animal with no problem.

Then as I came back into the left lane I suddenly started to realize that the rear of the car was sliding towards the center and I was starting to rotate. It was a very strange and unnatural feeling. When traveling at a high speed down the highway you get used to the feeling of moving forward so when I felt that the entire car is rotating and yet still moving in the same direction it was very strange. If the roads were snowy or icy I might have expected this but the roads were dry. I think it may have been a combination of my making too quick of a reaction and the increased amount of gravel and debris in the center of the road that caused this to happen.

So there I am in my car sliding sideways down the road. One of the things that really stood out to me about that situation was the crazy loud and scary noise my tires made. I also remember that things really seemed to slow down. It was like I was in slow motion. Not me I guess but like the world was passing slowly and I was still comprehending things at a normal or maybe faster speed. As I was sliding sideways I considered that the car would probably gain traction and I would drive straight off the edge of the road which at this particular area would have probably been fatal. There was a large steep slope off the side of the road and I thought at any second I would starting moving towards it. I had time during this incident to consider that I was probably about to die and I actually remember thinking to myself that I was ready. I was happy with my life. I also remember that I was a bit afraid that it might be really painful. I hoped it would be over quickly. Then I had the idea that instead of just waiting for the car to plunge off the road maybe I should try to turn the wheel back the other direction. The car did begin to move towards the outside lane and the edge of the road but it rotated and swung a full 180 degrees so that I was now sliding sideways in the outside shoulder with the car facing towards the concrete center wall. I had a similar thought that now I would smash into the wall. I don't remember how long I slid down the road or how many times I continued to fishtail back and forth. The car eventually slowed down enough that I just stopped in the right hand lane facing forward. I sat there for a little bit in a state of shock. Then once I realized that I was okay and my car hadn't even actually hit anything I continued driving the rest of the way home without incident.

Mar 5, 2015

Number Munchers

I recently got an account at keybase

If you want to read this blog post you must send me an encrypted message requesting the pass phrase. I will send you the pass-phrase in an encrypted message and you can use that passphrase do decrypt the message below. If you need an account on keybase let me know, I have a few to give out.

Version: GnuPG v1


Mar 4, 2015

Working at Skyenet

One of my early jobs that actually related to computers and technology was at a local internet provider called Skyenet. I started out just doing customer support over the phone and eventually moved into a software developer role working on internal tools and databases for the company. I remember that when I started we only did customer support during normal business hours and the group of us that answered the phones occupied a room with ample space. During my time there they grew to doing 24/7 support and packed that room with desks to the point where we were probably close to breaking safety rules for how many people should be in a single room.

Being Proactive

During one not so busy day when we were sitting around the manager came out and would take calls with us which was great. He wanted us to be proactive. We had a system where we could monitor people who were making or attempting to make connections to the internet. We could see in plain text the username and password that people would type in while connecting. So for example I could see in the logs that someone had tried the same combination many times and it wasn't working. I could then look up their account and see that the password they were typing in was not their password. I think in this case it was a simple typo that they weren't aware they were making since password fields don't usually show you what you are typing. With the users account information in hand I then called the person up. I explained the problem and helped them get back on the internet. I think even at the time I had this thought of how crazy that was. Imagine you are dialing up to the internet and it is not working. Your phone rings and it is the internet provider asking if you are having trouble and offering to help.

Computer Lingo

As I said for quite some time I did over-the-phone customer support at this ISP. If you have never tried to help someone fix their computer over a phone where you can not see their screen at all, well, let me just tell you it is not always easy and it requires a lot of patience. The problem was sometimes further complicated by the use of computer terms that people were not familiar with or just did not consider. The most common phrase I remember saying during support calls was explaining the difference between a left-click and a right-click on the mouse. I usually had to explain that when I ask them to click on something I always meant click the left button unless I specifically said right-click. One time while on the phone with an older customer who was not as familiar with computer terms I asked them the simple question that I ask a lot of our customers: "Can you tell me what you see on your desktop right now?". I really was not expecting to start hearing things like paperclips, a stapler, the phone, etc... I really had to hold back laughing and politely explain that I meant the "computer desktop" while in my mind thinking why in the world would they think I needed to know what was on their physical desktop. I still smile when I think about that situation.