Thursday, March 31, 2005

Higher Education II

Ok, this one doesn't so much have to do with higher education but it continues a thread that was being discussed in my first Higher Education post. I highly recommend you go read the comments there before reading this, good stuff.

Dave and I used to work together on various projects, even had the beginings of our own little company. When I need help figuring out some technical issues or someone to bat ideas around with I usually call him. During my life I've had several business relationships that I thrived in and it's made a few things clear, to me anyway, about how these things relate.

So here comes the big turn away from Higher Education and into some weirdness. I think, in general, people fall into either a big picture, concept-oriented focus or a detail-oriented focus. I'm not saying there isn't cross-over between them, I'm just saying from a comfort level or what you struggle least with, you fall into those two categories. For example, I can and have write a device driver. However, I absolutely hate it and struggle with it. On the other hand, I can go into a meeting with a bunch of people with very little thought of what we are going to talk about and run the show because I focus on big picture stuff, it comes naturally and I trust the details to work themselves out. Of course, that is where I get into trouble.

So these business relationships I mentioned, the ones I thrive on, are the ones in which I am paired with a detail-oriented person. Dave is a good example of this. We work very well together because he fills in my details and puts those constraints around me to keep me focused. He mentioned in his comments that I have a knack for asking the right questions and picking the information out of someone's head. That's why I was a good consultant, I have sorta a feel for that stuff. I don't have a feel for details, organization, that kind of thing. I also don't have any paitence for meetings that go flying off into no where, but that's a different story.

Here is what I'd like some feedback on because I'm curious. First, I think everything is relative to where you stand in the universe. A poor man would kill for $100 but a rich man could care less. Second, and I mentioned this in a different post, perception is everything. Perception trumps reality. When I was a fraid of flying it didn't matter that the reality of the situation that airplanes are extremely safe. It also didn't matter that I knew all of that. What mattered was my perception was that is was unsafe and thus I didn't fly. Y'all agree with them two points?

Next, do you believe more in logic or your gut? To me, when I relax and let things work themselves out things have a habit of working out for the best. When I try to shape the situation or think about it too much, things don't go so well. Have you seen this as well? Any experiences one way or another?

Let's get some conversation going!

Friday, March 25, 2005


Oh, and another good one that should scare the crap out of you. These are your leaders. Sleep tight.


Just In Case... thought I wasn't posting anymore about politics, here is a nice link I urge you all to read. Shows some of the divisions finally coming to the surface in the Republican party between the loonies that run the show and the traditional Republicans that I like.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Enjoy. Curious to hear what you all think.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Risk Taking

Jamie said something in his comments on my Higher Education post that reminded of something that I've heard before but never really accepted. He said that I was more of a risk-taker than the others in our little group. Others have said that about me as well, both professionally and personally. Everytime I hear it I wonder if it's true.

Perception is an interesting thing, it defines your reality. From the positions I've been in I've learned that lesson well. It is more about managing perceptions then what might actually be the truth. So the perception is that I'm a risk taker even though I don't necessarily feel that way. Does that make it so?

I've done risky things, particularly when it comes to driving. I've bungee jumped although there is no way anyone will get me to parachute. I've taken financial risks and tempted the wrath of the IRS, not on purpose mind you. I defied my parents growing up and I remember once, talking to Ben while we walked to where Sheetz is now to play some kickass arcade game with quarters we 'borrowed' from one of our parents, saying 'Nothing ventured nothing gained'. I rarely proof read my work and I tend to release code into production without fully testing it. So in this way, I suppose I am a risk taker.

But there is another side of the coin, and here is where I struggle sometimes with articulating this. In some ways I refuse to make a move until I feel like I have a good chunk of information. Then, at some point of critical mass, I just jump into it. For example, purchasing my first house. Joe and I (or was it Brian?) went to a meeting that a local realtor was putting on for people purchasing new houses. It wasn't something that even occurred to me as a viable option. Once we received the information they were talking about I decided to start looking but slowly. So I did some research and talked with a lender and got myself pre-approved. Then I talked to the realtor and decided to start looking. That part of the process took about two months because I was being cautious. Once I met with the realtor and we started to just look around, I had a house under contract within two weeks. What the hell is that?

In the end I guess I am a risk taker, but I feel I try to mitgate some risks while others I just do on instinct. I am a firm believer and following the gut and that the universe will unfold as it's meant to do. When I don't follow the gut, I get into trouble. So from the outside I can see where the risk taking perception would come from. But on the inside I just feel like I'm going with the flow.

Ain't self discovery grand?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

'A Momentary Lapse of Reason'

The title, a song by Pink Floyd, refers to learning how to fly. In the case of this post, it has to do about flying in general. And in my case, it wasn't a momentary lapse of anything, more like a four year long sabatical from flying.

I learned out to walk on an airplane between Richmond, VA and LA by holding on to the seats and walking up and down the aisle. I've always been fascinated by flight. I made a wing out of Styrofoam that I tied behind my bike by a 20 foot rope and dragged it along into the air. Recently I've gotten into RC Airplanes and have gone nuts with trying to create my own planes and the like. I wanted to take lessons to learn how to fly and attended a few meetings at Frostburg regarding that, even going to far to check out the airport.

Sometime in the late 90's I took my first flying lesson. It was a windy day and the pilot said 'We usually don't take first-timers out on such a windy day but since you are here we might as well do it'. I should have known it was a bad sign when he looked to make sure there were barf bags and none were there. Needless to say, the flight could have gone better.

I developed a fear of flying after that adventure. In fact, I was right on the edge of a full-fledged panic attack on a packed flight out to LAX. If none of you have ever experienced a panic attack before, count your blessings. It took me a year or so to start to get over it and start flying again. In 2000 and the first part of 2001 Leslie and I did a lot of travel that included flying. I started to get back into it and began to feel more comfortable. However, then 9/11 happened and I decided I was going to not fly until certain Administrations were retired. Well, we all know how that went in 2004.

So, I didn't fly for four years. It went from an unjustified fear to just a badge of pride. Kinda like never watching the movie 'Titantic'. When I thought about flying I didn't go through the mental games that would scare the crap out of me anymore. I decided it was time to start flying again, with something easy. Leslie and I flew to Florida a few weeks ago for her sisters wedding on Independence Air. Great airline, similiar to Southwest just with assigned seating and lots of blue. Plus its an Airbus and not a Boeing. In any case, I had very little trouble with the flight and it looks like I'm back!

What really really helped me though was watching 'The Aviator'. Great movie, but it helped me because it helped me get back in touch with my fascination of flight that I had lost years ago, before 9/11. Its amazing how when you loose touch with those fascinations how much your life can change.

Higher Education

If you didn't see the post below, you should read that first since I haven't posted in forever. The first part of this post is historical stuff. The second part is the meat.


School. I wanted to talk about school. I went to college with everyone else. Hell, I went with everyone to Frostburg. I think I was the second to leave, or third. Third, it was Kris, then Jamie, then me I believe. I started college thinking I would do the music thing. I quickly decided to do the computer thing instead. The computer program at Frostburg SUCKED. They were still using a VMS and teaching Pascal. But, most importantly, I couldn't get anything to eat after 10 o'clock. Seriously, that was the motivating factor for me to jump schools. Stop laughing. Serious. I left because of my stomach.

So I went to Univeristy of Maryland - College Park. My Dad went to UMCP as well, also spent two years in Germany at their campus out there. I stayed in a dorm at College Park. At Frostburg I was in the trial run of the Generating Opportunities for Leadership Development (GOLD) program. As a result, I was able to get a dorm room all to myself, big one too. Now the GOLD program is fricken impossible to get into, but then...wasn't so hard. I should talk about Freedom sometime. Anyway, I was on the forth floor of Ellicot on the high speed access floor and I had a roommate. Hooked up Linux and away I went.

I'm getting away from my point here. I didn't really want to go back through everything, let me see if I can get on track. So at Frostburg my grades were pretty good. At College Park they started out ok, but things changed. Specifically, College Park offered ALOT of additional opportunities that weren't there at Frostburg. I wasn't really a sports fan until my Dad dragged me to a Terp football game. Now I live and die Maryland Football and Baseketball (yes, I was a fan of both before they were good) and I'm into the pro's as well with Football. So there is one distraction.

Oh, and you could get something to eat at College Park 24 hours a day. A 24 hour McDonald's, how cool is that? And a 24-hour computer lab in a Parking Garage!

Ahh, and thus the seeds of my downfall. A 24 hour computer lab in a parking garage a five minute walk from my dorm. Oh, and let's not forget the release of Doom. There was a period of time that I didn't see daylight for two weeks because of that game.

So here comes the dirty little secret. I failed out of college. Yup, three times. The third time I just decided to get my career going. Actually, part of the reason for the third time was because my career had started to go. I started to work with a defense contractor called Aera. Wow, did that ever turn into a good relationship when I went out on my own.


So, my thoughts on higher education. In a nutshell, it has it's place but it isn't the only way to do it anymore. I've been held back sometimes because I didn't have a degree, but I learned how to adapt and to get around it. In particular, forget about going anywhere in a government position without a degree. However, as I've progressed I've learned that experience trumps a formal education in the private sector. I've run across people that were highly educated but couldn't get the job done. In fact, while working for Aera I worked with a professor on the UMCP campus on a project for the F-22. The guy had a ton of master's and whatever else but all he was was theortical. The conversations these guys had at lunch drove it home for me. There is a place for theory, and it is important, but there is a place for practicality as well.

Have I regretted not getting my degree? From time to time I do, I even think about going back to get it. But then I think about why? It's not going to help me with where I'm at in my career now. I have a pretty good reputation that takes care of that. And when I need some of that theoritical knowledge I just call one of my Comp Sci friends and have it out with them. There is some knowledge that I could have picked up from having a degree that would have made my job easier, but the majority of what I know and have done isn't taught in college. Well, maybe it is, but how would I know, I only have people I've met with degrees that didn't know what they were doing to base it on. I think it provides a firm foundation, it provides the knowledge, but not the understanding. You need both.

Ok, this is turning long but this whole education thing has always kinda bothered me. I'm the CIO of a dot com that made it and it poised to break it wide open. I had a successfull consulting career for several years and the outlook looks good for TADOnline. And I failed out of college.


So, like most everyone else I haven't kept up. No excuse! Time to ramble. Just random thoughts in no particular order after catching up on everyone else's blogs.

It seems like we have the baby blogs (Jamie and Ben) and then everyone else. That's cool. Babies everywhere. My neighbors just had a second one (baby boy this time) so now they have a pair. Leslie and I are pretty close to them and still make time to hang out, but it's not so much the case anymore with Ben and Jamie and I miss that. Babies change everything, no doubt.

Leslie and I are moving west. When and where are still up to debate, although we are shooting for the fall and Oregon. We are looking at the Portland area right now and will probably expand the search all the way down to the CA border. We are focusing on a rather narrow strip of eastern western Oregon. Between where its not super rainy and super dry. Shooting for 10+ acres, preferably 20 with a barn, some open field for the horses, and hopefully some woods. Everyone has a wood fireplace out there. Love them, as long as I don't burn up an oven mit again.

So I flew for the first time since early 2001 to Florida for Leslie's sister's wedding. More about that later.

I think I'm going to write about school in my next post.

Lots of thoughts.