Recently in Personal Category

Destiny Intersections

I became a father shortly after Inauguration Day. My wife and I are truly blessed beyond measure.  It was not long ago that I got married and obviously my life changed forever. The life of father and husband can be very challenging to say the least, but it is an awesome responsibility that I embrace with an open mind and abundant exuberance.

Clearly I do not have all the answers and I do not know what lies behind the proverbial "Door #1", as Monte Hall used to say. Nonetheless, I press on with wonderment and anticipation.  Our son completes the cipher for me in a number of ways. The coined phrase, "Paying it Forward" comes to mind often. Those of you know me well, understand that I was adopted at a young age. My pops was in his late 30's when he gave me the gift of protection, love and a permanent home.  Now that I am +40, I know and understand that raising a child is an awesome responsibility.  Coming home after a long day at the office now offers more meaning and now I am _pops_ the caregiver and protector. Truth be told, I cannot wait until he is old enough to catch a football, basketball or baseball. Then we can bond even further and share everlasting memories. There are some memories that only a father can enjoy with his son.

So, if you see me and I appear different there is a tangible reason for the change. Some will say it is sleep deprivation, but I believe it is much more. I am a proud pops who is excited about his new found responsibilities and the ability to shape and mold the life a very impressionable infant. I am looking forward to the wonder years and beyond. 


Remembering the Stark

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the USS Stark (FFG-31) "incident" (or disaster depending upon your perspective).  As I write this several weeks after Memorial Day, I know that I was truly blessed that day and the subsequent years that would follow.  At the tender age of seventeen, who would've thought that my first US Naval deployment would have ended in such tragedy.  For whatever reason, my life was spared and for that I am truly grateful.

In the Persian Gulf, the 17th of May 1987, the...

In the Persian Gulf, the 17th of May 1987, the USS Stark is hit by two Iraqi Exocet missiles within 30 seconds. 37 sailors are killed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year another surprise was revealed to me in the form of reparations check courtesy of the Iraqi government. Apparently, the US Gov't secured funds on behalf of fallen and surviving sailors. 

I vaguely remember being asked about the reparations during the time I served aboard Stark. Apparently since the loss of life and hardware destruction was so significant, the U.S Govt decided that demanding reparations would be appropriate. Though I will not disclose the amount received, I will state that I never believed that a dime would come my way.  
Obviously I was extremely surprised to have received notification that I was to provide prove of Stark service and include a note stating that I did not have an outstanding lawsuit against the Iraqi government. My curiosity was keen for sure. I really wanted to know how the amount was calculated, as it seemed rather random. Clearly no amount offered could replace the lives that were lost that faithful evening.  I would imagine the bulk of the reparations were used to replace the hardware that was destroyed on the ship. I seem to recall that number to be in the millions.

I sent in my paperwork without delay and a check was cut within one week. As stated earlier, it was pleasant surprise and the funds were put to good use. I can't really complain about the amount of time it took for the reparations to be granted; nonetheless, it was rather curious to receive the notification roughly 25yrs after the disaster took place. 

 
 

Prayer Musings

Cults and new religious movements in literatur...

Image via Wikipedia

Now that I'm married, I have become a fairly regular church attendee. For those of you who know me well this is indeed remarkable, as I have shared my thoughts on religion and church in this space on numerous occasions. Nonetheless, my wife and I enjoy our discourse on various belief systems and process of building faith both internal and external.

Our church is pretty progressive in its approach to spreading the gospel and promoting a healthy community.  It is not uncommon for the pastor to ask the congregation to hit the streets to assist in prayer vigils or some other spiritual revivals.  We have gone door-to-door to pass out leaflets and offer prayers of encouragement for the disenfranchised and less fortunate.   One one particular Sunday, I assisted the pastor and roughly ten others members of our congregation in canvassing a 10-story "project" building in midtown Detroit. The idea was that we'd inform folks of the forthcoming revival and respond to and offer to give prayer to those who acknowledged a need.


Not sure that I could really call that tenement a project building, as it looked more like a re-purposed hotel circa 1960's.  Though it was very grimy inside, it did not stir memories of Farragut (B'klyn) or Soundview (Bronx).  Anyway, I digress. Perhaps the most noteworthy was the fact that we decided to start the work on the 10th floor. By the time pastor had reached the top floor, I had to chuckle at the fact that we probably lost seven brothers on the way up to the 10th floor. Nuff huffing and puffing. Mad giggles for me.. Anyway we get to the top and split up into groups of three and send the groups to 9th and 8th floors too.  We figured that it made more sense to do it this way. I did have a bit of trepidation about the prayer vigil, as I wasn't sure what the tenants would say to us. Moreover, I'm not much for prayer in general.  More on this later.

After we broke up into groups of three, we began to knock upon doors at random. Clearly, there is a bit of risk when doing such things. Particularly when you do not know what lurks on the other side of the door. Call it blind faith, much like the Book of Eli ;-)  Anyway it was decided that I would be the person who would explain why we had chosen to knock on the door.  Once you explain your purpose, you will immediately learn whether you're wanted. It was typically for the residents simply not to answer the door. Surprisingly, more often than not they actually opened the door and didn't spray us with profanity or buckshot. I actually got pretty comfortable speaking about the revival and selling something for which I was not completely invested. Someone said if you can sell Jesus, you can sell anything.

Eventually, every group member had to say a prayer for those residents who allowed us to do so at there door entry. Definitely not in my comfort zone, but we got it done.

Most of the residents we spoke to were likely jobless and perhaps a few days from being homeless. It was a very somber sight indeed. I could not help but wonder if our time would have been better served by providing them with vocational training, food or something more tangible than prayer. 

I once learned something called the 12 jewels - Food, clothes, shelter, peace, love,happiness, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, freedom, justice, and equality. It would seem to me that these are the most precious jewels for the human being. Reason with me for a moment. People who are in the cycle of poverty for whatever reason, would likely be uplifted in many respects by attaining the components of these 12 jewels. Uttering prayers seems so very hollow to me. Perhaps it is a start, but it just seems that there is so much more needed.

We will never know whether the people living in that tenement building really benefited from our presence and prayers. However, I am clear that much more needs to be done.
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BTHS Silver Reunion Weekend - Revisited

My wife and I enjoyed a fabulous time at my 25yr BTHS Class of '85 Reunion. It was great seeing old friends and rekindling past acquaintances. As mentioned previously, I worked with a group of mostly diligent class representatives. Though we probably got on each others nerves (yes I was particularly gruff as the event drew near), our classmates really seemed to appreciate the effort. The reunion was successful. From a technical resource standpoint, I would probably not use PayPal in the capacity that we chose. Definitely my fault, I'll take the spear ;-)
PayPal cannot easily manage event horizon or time interval cost increases. The merchant scripts really should not be shared. In retrospect, sites like EventBrite would be better suited for this purpose. You live and learn - C'est la Vie :-) Hopefully, this tidbit will help the '86ers..

Though, I do not know the final headcount, I believe we had approximately 135 people in attendance. Not a bad showing during an economic downturn.
Technites traveled from as far away as British Columbia and Alaska. That is what I call dedication :-)

Although, I was not able to attend most of the school sponsored events, I was able to greet folks in the lunch room. The lunchroom was a spot where we used to bang out beats on the tables and cut classes on occasion. I still remember the popping and break dance competitions in the center section of the lunchroom.

Actually, I also wanted to speak with the BTHS principal, Randy Asher. Some of you may recall that I wrote an open letter to Randy some years back. The letter was a response to NY Times editorial that highlighted the decline of African-American students in NYC Specialized high schools. As I walked around the lunchroom, I wondered aloud if the Class '85 was indeed the last frontier for so-called minorities (African-American & Latino) at BTHS. Only time will tell, but I would rather be pro-active and offer some clues.

As I rode the Metro-North back to CT, I happened to be seated next to a woman whose son was a sophomore at Tech. In our candid conversation she suggested that entrance exam preparation was likely the cause of reduced numbers of African-Americans enrollment at BTHS. She told me that her son began prepping for the exam in the 7th grade, and that she made it a priority above all else.

While I agree with the premise that exam preparation is paramount to success and ultimately entrance to a specialized high school. I asserted that the problem is much deeper than she described. I have been thinking about this problem for at least 3yrs. Admittedly, the situation is as dire as it is perplexing. Below are some thought starters which I believe will help us gravitate to a possible solution to this dilemma.

Recognizing the Stakeholders


  • Parents
  • Local Communities
  • Industry
  • Junior High Schools
  • NSBE

I'm quite sure that Asher and his executive staff have already considered the appropriate stakeholders. Nonetheless, I would assert that these relationships have eroded over time.
For instance, I understand that B'klyn Polytechnic created a Junior NSBE chapter at BTHS. For those of you not familiar with the NSBE, it is one of the largest student run professional organizations dedicated to the following mission

"to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community."

Not sure if the NSBE Junior chapter or the alliance with B'klyn Polytechnic still exists today.

Obviously, parents and the local communities are perhaps the most influential stakeholders. Anyone who grew up in Fort Greene or any other section of B'klyn, understands very well that gentrification has drastically changed the landscape of the neighborhoods. Whether this change is good or bad is beyond the scope of this entry. I'll leave this point of pontification as an exercise for the reader. Suffice to say, the Dekalb Ave and the surrounding area near BTHS is far different than I remember.
In a recent conversation with a fellow classmate, he surmised that the huge influx of higher income families that are searching for affordable (ie zero cost) education for their children, BTHS becomes an obvious choice. I would take the point a step further, circa '85 charter schools didn't exist. Or at least there was not a huge discussion about vouchers. Perhaps the rise of the "charter school" mentality in the inner-city has created a scarcity for quality public schools seats that is far greater now than in the 80's?

Clearly I do not have all the answers; however, it will indeed take a village to correct the problem. Obviously, the first step is publicly acknowledging the problem and then aggressively recruiting caring individuals to help rectify the situation. I'm not sure Asher has done either. Nonetheless, I have already spoken to concerned classmates and I am confident that we can help stem the tide. IMHO, rebuilding the relationships with the key stakeholders should improve matters.

Lastly, it is worth noting that every person of color who attends BTHS is destined to become a mechanical engineer, chemist or actuary scientist. Geeks are a rare breed indeed! BTHS provides students with the appropriate work ethic to succeed in any endeavor. We just need to do a better job with improving the critical mass for African-Americans. A drop-off from 33% to 11% is quite shocking.

Randy, let's have that conversation sooner than later..


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Silver Reunion Weekend

Brooklyn Technical High School

Image via Wikipedia

As time passes you learn to appreciate time with family and friends. This weekend my beloved BTHS will have its annual homecoming. My graduation class and others will be honored in the festivities. I volunteered to be a class representative and took part in much of the planning. Working with this disparate group was very rewarding. Our team was spread across the country, with the largest contingency in the Tri-State area. Silver is quite precious indeed, so it is understandable that much detail and angst was required to prepare for this event.

In order help organize the thoughts of the planning committee, I build a wiki using tiki-wiki. The utility of the software was quite good and afforded everyone the opportunity to share information fairly seamlessly. Though much of the wiki activity has waned in final weeks leading up to the end of our project, I would submit that all of the planning has been archived for posterity sake. Perhaps over graduating classes could benefit from our hard work ;-)

Social media played larger role in the preparation for the Silver Reunion as compared to our 20th Reunion. Various classmates became part of our Facebook, LinkedIn and Classmates.com social networks. I would submit that securing this critical mass of people would not have been quite as easy 5yrs prior. I believe snail mail and phone calls were the methods used by our 20yr Reunion class representatives. Hell, we even had a viral video that we posted to YouTube to help with hyping the event.

We have secured our own paparazzi for this event. Basically we did a bit of crowd sourcing.. More on this later.

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Struggle Ends

After years of educating people about the virtues of FOSS. The numerous condemnations of proprietary software. Campaigns against Cupertino and Redmond, I have decided to retreat and no longer unfurl the banner of Open Source. In fact, I have decided to purchase an iPhone and have also placed iPad on lay away. Lastly, I have also thought it wise to begin studying the art of SEO. Soon I will toss my hat into the very crowded marketplace of social media consultants.
I am ready to embark on a new era!

Benefits of hacking

Allow me to reflect a moment. I am constantly reminded that hacking is a good thing. People often get it twisted because many of us watch too much tel-lie-vision (aka TV). Hacking has little to do with someone taking your credit card information and selling it for a very modest fee on the wilds of the Interweb. Hacking has more to do with the curiosity of problem solving.
Truth be told you don't have to be an engineer to enjoy hacking. As a home owner, I'm often faced with problems that appear to be difficult and beyond my scope of knowledge. Perfect opportunity to open the wallet and hire a smarter person, right? Wrong answer.

A hacker would seize the opportunity to learn something new. For instance, when I purchased my home several years ago, roughly 6months later I discovered the refrigerator compartment was not cold enough. In contrast, the freezer compartment was quite cold. Strange huh... You can bet your last dollar that I wasn't going to buy a new appliance. Instead, I began reading about "How Stuff Works" and re-introducing myself to basic HVAC. After peeling the onion, I discovered that the condenser fan had overheated and seized with some very gross gummy substance. Simply replaced the condenser fan ($35.00) and voila.. Good as new.

More recently, I ran into another HVAC concern. My furnace began making an unusual rumbling sound which is usually nothing good. Yet another opportunity to call in the pros, right? Wrong again. I walk downstairs and survey the situation. Because heat is actually coming from the ducts in the home, I know that the ignitors are working. The problem is that the amount of heat is minimal. Hmmm. I have a forced draft blow furnace. So, it must be blower motor issue. I remove the cover and I recognize that the blower motor pulleys do not have a belt on them. Wow, interesting.. The belt was deteriorated and stretched to the point it had simply fallen off the pulleys. Luckily, I was able to find a HVAC shop that had a 4L-400 belt in stock on Saturday. Pure nirvana :-) A bit of sweat equity can go a long way. The belt cost me $22.00 and a little skin off my knuckle. Worthwhile investment indeed.

Everyone has the ability to think logically and reason. The issue is that many folks are lazy or simply not interested in solving problems. Sure, you may argue that I'm the most frugal man on the face of the earth (you wouldn't be too far off). Nonetheless, I enjoy learning immensely and if the by-product of that curiosity is cost savings so be it. Discover your own curiosities.. You can become a hacker too!!

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Relaxation ends

Flag Antigua Barbuda

Image by erjkprunczyk via Flickr

Just returned from a very wonderful excursion with my lovely bride. Spent a week in Antigua. Great island and nice people. Heh, it reminded me of fantasy island, well almost. Got an opportunity to do some kayaking and I ate like a pig. Nuff' alcohol flowed, drinking at 12pm was a new experience, but quite fun indeed. I must have consumed 30 white russians and 30 banana sip sops. The food was equally delicious, as it does seem that Sandals resorts spent a great deal of time preparing the experience around a huge variety of gourmet cuisine.

The resort was full of "continentals" as locals would say. Lots of Brits and other Europeans. It also appeared that there weren't very many natives on the managerial team. I suppose that is topic for another blog entry. Must also mention that my pseudo new Nokia N800 was a boon for all. When we arrived at Antigua, my trusty old 'unlocked' Treo 650 happily picked up the LIME network, as the AT&T network was unavailable on the island. My wife was lugging around a locked but highly fashionable iPhone that pretty much served as a very expensive doorstop the entire trip. Nonetheless, the iPhone did see the LIME network, but refused to connect and actually warned its owner about the exorbitant fees. Meanwhile, I was able to make calls back to our Asterisk PBX with my unlocked Treo without issue. That was until a winter storm hit MI, and power was lost.. Somehow, I must remember to change the BIOS settings on all of my critical servers. I digress. Since I was advised not bring a notebook computer to Antigua the N800 helped me honor my commitment and still stay connected.
Because the Wi-Fi was sporadic in the room, I didn't bother setting up the softphone on the N800 (Gizmo or G-Talk) would have worked quite well. The next trip I make, I'll be sure to grab a huge compliment of movies and netcasts to be stored on my micro-SD. Gotta love the N800 for a c-note.


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30 Days with Tiki Wiki

Now that I have been using Tiki Wiki for slightly over 1 month, it probably makes sense to offer a critique at this juncture.

*From a social perspective -
I must say that I am impressed that most members of the team have eagerly challenged this pseudo new technology. Methinks learning by doing is always the key to success, particularly when the learning curve is steep. There will always be bugs or nuances that cannot quite be explained, nonetheless you have to be willing to stick your toe in the pool and then gradually wade to the deeper water.

*From a technical perspective -
I chose to hide the wiki syntax from all of the users because it can be somewhat confusing, even for those that are familiar with HTML syntax. I have also noticed that RSS modules do not seem to be working as desired. In an effort to reduce the amount of time that our team spends trudging over to Facebook and Y! Groups, I spent an inordinate amount of time playing with Y! Pipes to help syndicate the content in both areas. The result has not been very good. While the Y! pipe seems to work, when I place the resulting feed in my Bloglines news reader, I receive a weird "access denied" message. It appears to be some sort of permissions issue, but I have not been able to narrow it down. I'll keep hacking.

The wiki is indeed feature rich, it will even post on the fly email messages destined for a particular forum thread provided that you point it to a POP server. Clearly we will never make use of all its features (ie newsletter, polls, team member blogs, etc), but it is great to have the tools.

Perhaps the feature I enjoy best is that the wiki admin feature gives you a choice of saving files to the filesystem or simply writing changes back to the database. I chose the latter, thus I can save precious disk space on my web server.

Overall the response has been favorable and the experiment could be described as positive.
I suppose the next step will be making regular back-ups to the database and wiki subdirectory, so that I will not run the risk of losing our hard work.

If after 120 days we deliver a quality Silver Anniversary, I will rate the experiment a success.

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Fiduciary Responsibility

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 06:  House Financial Ser...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The effect of the Recession or Depression depending upon which region of the US that you reside has been well documented. Many of my friends and colleagues have been directly impacted by job loss and an imploding housing market. The sad reality is that many people have lost 30-50% of the value on their homes. No fault of their own, they followed the so-called American dream. As responsible homeowners, they paid their mortgages dutifully and made sure that they did not purchase more home than they could afford. That is the unspoken rule that your monthly mortgage should be no more than 1/3rd of monthly income.

After doing what was correct, many folks are conflicted.

Some have resorted to just walking away from their mortgages, after all these loans are secured instruments which use only the property as collateral. Moreover, some folks believe that due to a failing economy, lenders will later 'overlook' their indiscretions. Perhaps the conversation would go, "So you're claiming bankruptcy and you've foreclosed on your home?" , the reply , "Yes I have. " The credit lender would reply, "Oh yeah 2009 CY, everybody was doing that then. Special circumstances, we'll forgive you." How likely is that scenario? Heh, don't believe the hype. That sort of stuff never works out the way you might envision it. Particularly for people of color. Unfortunately, in a Capitalist society, good credit is your only saving grace. Business deals are best done leveraging other folks money in a strategic and smart fashion.

There are a few ways to combat the depressed housing market. I might add that these strategies are not full proof, but they are options. If you own a Fannie Mac property, you can take advantage of the gov't led program. You can also request that your mortgage be modified; particularly if you have been paying on time.

One more word on some of these programs which help people avoid foreclosure.
The Obama campaign has created the making homeAffordable effort. While is quite noble and probably helpful, I have learned that it may not be totally enforceable. As an investor, it does appear that the banks appraising properties that they suspect do not meet the 125% Loan-to-Value. This is a very foul policy as it defeats the spirit of the Obama program. So once again, the banks win? Well, maybe not. My approach is to be aggressive and empower myself with knowledge. Lastly, I will continue to live a frugal lifestyle and live below my means whenever possible. Coupons and receipt reconciliations are my favorite past times.

Hold your head up and be encouraged.

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Un-natural Selection

Everyone will eventually be given an opportunity to perform jury duty. Actually, I never had never served until recently, as I typically was exempt due to active military. Nonetheless, the past two years I have been sent notices twice. Perhaps this is because of the dwindling population in Detroit? Who knows. My first experience was a more pleasant one since I was dismissed, the first set of jurors seated were interested in serving and the defense and prosecution were happy to have them.

My more recent encounter was much less enjoyable. There were approximately 42 prospective jurors, and I witnessed some poor but hysterical excuses people used to get themselves excused or disqualified from service. Some faked mental illness others simply said that they didn't care to participate. I suppose that I should have behaved in a belligerent fashion, jammed some gold fronts in my grill or bopped to my juror seat. Some people were even threatened with contempt of court, but it did not matter to them. They just wanted out. Perhaps the more interesting development was watching the gamesmanship of the prosecution and defense attorneys.

Both of them tried their best to stack the jury in a way which was most favorable to their clients. So while there were nearly four sets of 14 prospective jurors, at least four were dismissed by the defense or prosecution. In fact, after the dust had settled no alternates were available in the gallery. So, they agreed to seat just 13 jurors. Interesting indeed.

Judging from the first days of the trial, we may very well have 12 angry jurors. Appears to be too much teaching going on. Scarcely, have gone through all of the witnesses.

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Bumpy Knuckles

Heh, Nuff respect to Freddie Foxxx.. I've not written much about anything lately, so I figured I would mention that I am still training. I will also love TSD. In fact, I am re-building the school webpage using Drupal - Sorry Anil. Anyway, I probably should begin by stating that I missed my first seminar in nearly 3.5yrs. These intense classes are conducted twice a year, typically March and October. Actually, I was participating in the Phil Sea Plankowner Reunion, so I was unable to attend. Unfortunately, I had heard that only 15 students were in attendance. Somehow that seems like very small class size. Perhaps the smallest ever. Though, I have no particular statistics to back up my fear, I wonder if this down economy really played serious havoc on the would be attendees. Nonetheless, I still called GM Kim and express my apologies for not being able participate.

Now, to the point of this entry ;-) During each seminar GM Kim always talks about had conditioning. We actually spend some time smacking our hands on concrete covered carpet. In class and at home I use a mawari board. The purpose of the board is to toughen the skin on the knuckles, so that it is least likely for your hands to become a bloody mess when striking objects. Our Federation President stresses tough hands. In fact, calloused knuckles are the trademarks for long practicing martial artists.

I've always said martial arts can be a humbling experience. Rebuilding of oneself, through the act of starting over. During my nearly 10yrs of training, I have only come across seemingly unbreakable boards twice. Once as a young, inexperienced 6th Gup. Who was asked to break two boards with a step over sidekick (yap chagi). More recently, I met a similar fate when trying to break an unusually knotty pine. This singular board was supposed to broken by another very young student testing for 2nd Gup. He was not able to break the board, and would have likely cried if he was asked to continue. Naturally, I figured it bad karma not to destroy that board. After the testing, I struck with three middle punches. It did seem that my fist bounced off each time. Very humbling indeed. I wanted to strike it again with pal koop (elbow attack), but I was told to leave it alone. There would be better days ahead.

A few abrasions and a swollen second knuckle was my prize for poor technique and perhaps weak spirit. My instructor told me that I will get my chance soon enough. I didn't feel so bad, as I had witnessed senior dan members fist explode on boards during Dan testing. Yes, I was incredulous when it happened to me. *Sigh* I live another day and long for another opportunities to fatten my knuckles.

Plankowner Reunion Musings (Revisited)

As stated previously, I enjoyed the reunion. Perhaps the best part of the experience was revisiting the old boat after 20yrs. The current ships company were very gracious in giving its "maiden" crew the opportunity to see the ship one last time. I understand that Phil Sea will be undergoing an extended dry-dock period for upgrades. I would by lying if I didn't mention that my primary interest was the engineering spaces. Don't misunderstand, the Pilot House, Flight Deck, Combat Systems, Bridge, and focsle are quite remarkable. However, IMHO there is nothing more intriguing than a power plant. Clearly I am biased, as I spent a substantial amount of my time in the engineering and auxiliary spaces.

So, after having to endure the tour through the non-engineering spaces. I was thrilled to get a peek at the CCS, MER1 and AUX1. I was taken aback at the elimination of the DCC, PCC, and EPCC. Gone were the signal conditioning enclosures and seemingly millions of incandescent light bulbs. The consoles and enclosures were replaced by SMCS terminals which are oddly powered by M$ XP. Imagine that you're underway steaming at 40knots and you get the ubiquitous BSOD. That's some scary shit. I would imagine that these consoles have two processors and some level of redundancy to protect the ship from an unreliable OS.

I spoke with one of the watchstanders and he informed me that the system has been known to fail at inopportune times. Nonetheless, he did emphasize that not having to take manual readings with clip board and pen was quite lovely. Each watchstander gets a PDA which has a USB connector which enables you to simply download a trendlog spreadsheet to the PDA. The data is then stored and can be reviewed by EOOW and analyzed for abnormal behavior.

The changes certainly save taxpayers money, as the ship can be manned by fewer sailors.
Apparently with the technical advances and various innovations, the ship's crew has been reduced by one-third.

In case of computer failure, the watchstanders are trained in contingency strategies, that is they are expected to know where every temperature gage is located in there respective spaces. These are done during various drills. Ironically, manually recording lube oil temps and climbing over the main reduction gear was our normal practice underway. Heh, times have changed indeed. I would imagine that preventative maintenance can also be simulated too. It was not unusual that an improperly/properly performed PMS check was the cause of an inadvertent failure on some equipment.

Lastly, the other very interesting development was the introduction of females aboard combatant ships. During my days in the US Navy ('85 - '91), woman typically served aboard Tenders, Oilers and other non-combatants. The only exception was the humongous aircraft carriers. It seemed odd to walk by berthing areas designated "women only" and various other changes. There are roughly 30 females and nearly 320 males. I could imagine 6-month deployments are rather interesting. In truth, after being underway for 48 consecutive days without pulling in for a liberty call. I would have welcomed having a conversation with a woman. However, it seems hard to believe that more problems are introduced when people are asked not to be human. Perhaps some would argue that it is no different than corporate America.. Being confined to small and tight quarters is very, very different. Perhaps if the numbers weren't so lopsided, there would be fewer tempations? Who knows.

There were many changes aboard the old boat, very good to see her for one last time.

Plankowner reunion musings

This weekend I have the honor of re-uniting with shipmates off my 2nd boat. I have not uttered much about my US Navy adventure in this space, as I have been otherwise engrossed in life events. For those who do not know, I spent 6yrs as a squid (nautical term of endearment) err I mean sailor. I traveled half-way around the world before I was twenty-five, never made it past the equator. In truth, I had some reservations in attending, as my last year on the ship was not pleasurable. I suppose, I had overstayed my welcome and was longing to return to the real world. Nonetheless, it has been great to see folks that I have not spoken to in 20yrs. Some have not changed at all.
The term "plankowner" is derived from the word 'plank'.. Essentially, planks make up the ship decking. Since I was a member of the commissioning crew, we essentially entitled to a piece this decking :-) Thus the name plankowner seems appropriate. The "original" ship's company.

Tomorrow, I will take a tour of ye old ship. It will feel strange, as I used to live aboard a the powerplant. Slept in some of the weirdest places in the engine room and auxiliary spaces. A true "snipe" as they used to affectionately call the engineers.

My experience in the Navy was an enriching one, in that it provided me with a great desire to continue my education. In fact, I was able to save money for college using my Montgomery GI Bill and US Savings Bonds. Yes, Savings Bonds. Amazing is it not?
Both the GI Bill and Savings Bonds were exhausted within the first 2yrs of my undergraduate education. Basically the monies were used for an apartment and tuition.

At some point it will be worthwhile to characterize my experiences on the USS Stark (FFG-31) and USS Philippine Sea (CG-58). Very different commands and very different crews. Obviously, both ships will always have a place carved out in my memory banks.

Hiatus - Refocus - ReInvention

Some of you have asked about the absence. Lots of change abound, I've not taken a sabbatical. Just addressing a bit of turmoil at the moment. I'll be able to share more as developments unfurl.

Rest assured that I'm fine and I have much to discuss. The automotive space is not a happy place to be right now. Very strange to see your friends and colleagues involuntarily separated from their livelihoods. Some people don't have any other skill set, so it becomes more difficult to rebound. Unfortunately, it is just the beginning. IMHO, the worst is yet to come. Fuel and precious metals will continue to fluctuate for the foreseeable future.

I'll have more to share in the following days.

Enough of the professional stuff. On a business note, I recently converted yet another customer to a Linux desktop. I will reveal that story in a couple of days.

A shout for Mutambara - Heart of Champion








In life we often long for opportunities to meet or befriend someone that would leave a lasting impression upon you or others. A person that has an eye for freedom and speaks truth to power. Sure I have read about the lives of Malcolm, Martin and other tremendously consequential freedom fighters. However, I had never met anyone who would later create and foster a movement that would threaten his life. That is until I befriended Arthur Mutambara.

Mutambara taught in the FAMU/FSU College of Engineering, he specialized in Controls, more specifically Mechatronics. I believe he also taught Robotics as well. As part of my Mechanical Engineering undergrad curriculum, I had the great fortune to study Vibrations(or Vibes as many of us called it) under Mutambara. Prior to successfully completing that course, I thought P.I.D only pertained to Process ID. Boy, was I wrong :)

He certainly was not the conventional professor, in that he and I traded Tony Touch mixed-taped and talked about HipHop on regular basis. He offered me Tupac and Ras Kass, in turn I offered him KRS and Freddie Foxxx. We made sure that neither one of us fell into the media propagated East Coast vs. West Coast nonsense. At the time, I didn't realize that we were nearly the same age.

Early on I knew that he was an activist. I asked him what he thought about Cecil Rhodes, as Arthur was the only Zimbabwean that I had encountered that was also a Rhodes Scholar. Needless to say I got an earful and well deserved education. Arthur was very interested in the uplifting of the disenfranchised. Once I had learned that he was embroiled in the politics of his homeland, I knew that he would be a change agent. In fact, it was through his involvement that I became more interested in the developments of Zimbabwe. Mutambara has been critical of the African agenda and the leadership therein. He also takes issue with aftermath of post-colonial African development. Clearly he is calling people to task. I applaud his courage. Yes, also acknowledges the damages inflicted upon the motherland by Imperialism..

It was much later that I learned that his life was in danger, but I knew that he would not be bowed and would not retreat. These are the lessons that he instilled in his students. There is going to be a grassroots effort to help support Mutambara and his family during their time of need. Once the details are known, I will share the details here.

Brand Yu (Revisited)

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to a discussion about branding self. If any of you have a marketing sense, you'll note that branding is normally attributed to inanimate objects. Products which can be purchased or sold. Apply this concept to the value of human capital, you then of something called Brand Yu. It does seem that this sort of conversation has gained huge momentum over the past 5-10 years. Why is that? I really don't have an answer to this question, but I would imagine it could possibly be related slumping economy, and the disproportionate numbers of people not taking advantage of life offerings.

One item that confuses me. What is the difference between a Brand Yu proponent and Life Coach? At the surface, it would seem that both would propose similar strategies of realizing the vast potential in self. Perhaps Hajj, could help me answer this question.

Regarding the talk, it was compelling. Many of the strategies that were recommended were common sense methodologies of helping to push your cream to the top. In other words, discovering the main adjectives which define your personal brand. Once you've identified your personal life statement, develop a strategy to help manifest that vision. You'll likely see an escape from that dead-end job. I'm not going to regurgitate all of the key points of this discussion; however, there was one interesting workshop.

Two volunteers were called to the front of the auditorium. Both were tasked with passionately describing some product. One person was given a Crackberry the other some Aquafina.
They had to convince the audience in 10min or less, the value of that product. Why must you have that addictive electronic device or that $1.50 bottle of water. Afterwards, they were tasked with providing the same passionate sales pitch about themselves. Why must you hire me? What is my value proposition? This was rather interesting. People typically fumble when tasked with this sort of question. Especially an impromptu challenge.

Lastly, I thought it odd that the speaker did not have a website. Methinks that your virtual brand is at least as important as your physical one. Secondly, the speaker did not wish to share their presentation. No hard copy or digital copy. Perhaps she was worried that her brand would be threatened? Odd indeed.. If your brand is strong it is also distinct and cannot be duplicated. Am I wrong?

Why Stroke everyone with same brush?

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Recently triumphed over a nasty virus. Had me laid out for a couple of days. So last week I paid a visit to my primary physician. This dude is very opinionated, but I tolerate him because he is competent and convenient. Anyway, he begins to talk about Detroit mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick and his transgressions. Doc began to spew all kinds of negativity. Thug was mentioned and the common, "every black man should be ashamed." What is odd about all of this is that Doc is from the Middle East. So, the criticism is a bit hard to swallow. Basically, I resort to nodding and half-patronizing. Finally, I uttered, "You know I voted for the guy." The diatribe continued.
He then said, even the guy running for President is going to have a hard time. I'm thinking damn. Kwame fucked it up for everybody. Hell, I can't even walked the streets anymore without someone, saying another Kwame. Is it really that bad? Are black men truly a monolithic culture? I think not, but it is sad to see people trying to cram us into one bag like shake-n-bake.

Meanderings

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Today I'll participate in another Tang Soo Do seminar conducted by the President of our federation, Kwang Jang Nim Saul Kim.
Eventually, photos and videos from my 3rd Dan testing will be uploaded to the usual places. In truth, I have exhausted my alloted disk space on my webserver. It could be time to begin looking for another hosting solution. I really need at least 1GB of space. Much of the space is occupied by my netcast content. The high quality ogg audio files are quite large. I am considering using a service like libsyn to host the ogg audio, I would then finally be able to have a permanent ogg feed.

Additionally, my MT publishing engine is very long in the tooth and it is time to upgrade. However, I won't upgrade until I get the disk space resolved and the feeds corrected. Perhaps, I'll get to this in the next couple of weeks. I do have a show episode (AG Speaks) in the cue, but I simply must sit down and do the post-processing.

We'll see how it turns out. I have just been pre-occupied with self-imposed deadlines that seem to slip on a regular basis.

Humorous Capitulation

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I know that I am late, but I could not hold back on this one. Roughly four years ago, my buddy Keith had become one of the most vociferous Apple fanboys. He attributed this odd behavior to his frustration of stuff simply not working on the Linux platform. Mostly he was tired of reading, hacking and discovering. I was very sad for him, as he began to sound like an old man ;) I publicly called him Judas when he decided to leave the Linux community and become an MVP.

Actually, I have mellowed much since then. I am better now. What is it about the Apple platform that makes people overspend and subject themselves to so much abuse?
Well I do understand the idea of lifestyle products. Steve Jobs has worked very hard closing down the architecture, so that you must love his art or else. FWIW, his art is quite eyecatching, albeit costly. A friend recently mentioned something about the uniqueness of the powercord on Macintosh computers. Actually, I had never given it much thought. I suppose the concept is quite trivial. The device attaches to a wall via a magnet. If someone accidently trips over the cord, it decouples from the cable without dumping your overpriced notebook on the floor.

Simple enough. Why don't you see this "innovation" on PC hardware? Well it's called economies of scale. Apple only deals with a handful of suppliers, while Dell probably has hundreds of suppliers. Apple is a hardware company, while Dell is a logistics company. Both do an excellent job of walking lockstep with the vendors that place their components inside of the case that ultimately becomes a desktop or notebook computer. Basically, Apple owns the entire computing experience, so it _ought_ to just work out of the box. In fact, the Mac is so closed that you even have to buy a set of golden wrenches just work on the hardware. Help me understand, I just spent thousands of dollars on some hardware, and you tell me I can't work on it? Ridiculous.

What annoys me most about people who try running Linux for the first time is that they expect the same experience. They exclaim "Linux isn't ready for the laptop or desktop !" I retort Unix/Linux is user friendly, it is just particular about who its friends are...

Basically, Linux is nothing than a powerful kernel with some excellent GNU tools. Now when you start talking about the plethora of distributions (Slackware, Debian, Gentoo, Fedora, etc...) then you get tons of software. Hence a workable computing experience. Linux is not a software or hardware company. There are no promises when you download or buy a shrinked wrapped copy of your chosen distro. The only constant is that you will likely learn something new, and most importantly you have the freedom to do as you wish. Some might argue that Linux does not have legal codecs.. In some cases that is true; however, I do not lose much sleep over it.

These problems will be sorted out eventually. Now, Mr. Elder makes some great points about the Apple history and the whole Power Computing (read: eating your young) blunder. I believe the broader issue is economies of scale. If Dell decided to add some of the unique and rather exotic hardware to its platform, the added costs would certainly be passed onto the consumer.

Personally, I look at a computer as a commodity that is critical for learning. Not some luxury item that my people should drool over or wish they could whip my ass and take it from me. That said if you're in the Apple camp, you will continue to get raped with over priced hardware.
But you knew that already :)

Strange Omen?

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These past two months, I have discovered two birds in my home. Not exactly sure how they gained entry into the house, but it is rather weird. Luckily, I was able to get them out without them paying with their lives.

The first trespasser was a mere Sparrow, last week I found a Starlett.. Very strange indeed.

First Digit Flip

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Pops recently celebrated a milestone. The surprise party went over very well and and it was fun for all who attended. How could this have been achieved without the Internet? Shifting gears..
I have been planning a major overhaul of this space. Modern CSS facelift and for better navigation and improved readability. If I can steal a couple of hours for self, I may actually get this done during the holidays. More on this the next few days.

Go Tech

This alumni newsletter crossed my desk last week. Despite the fact that I have challenged the leadership of my alma-mater (and will continue to do so), I am quite proud that I attended BTHS.

The entire ranking metrics rationale, along with the listing of the top 100 schools, can be found here

Where does your school rank?
BTHS US News Report

Enterprise Zone

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Typically I loathe having to go downtown and deal with the Assessor's office. With the advent of technology it would seem that we could avoid schlepping paper around. Yes, I'm and undercover tree-hugger ;) My neighborhood was selected as an NEZ-H, that is I can anticipate some tax relief for 2008CY. So I was requested to bring copies of my deed, application signed in blue ink, and driver's license.

Initially, I thought it would be easier to simply use snail mail to deliver the required forms. After speaking with people that had already gone through this process, I reconsidered my position. I imagined that I would probably spend 1-1.5 hrs in a long queue. You know the typical sweat box office, dealing with unhappy, and underpaid, city workers. I got down there on Saturday afternoon and was surprised to learn that the office nearly empty. No long line or irate patrons. Aside from the guy sucking on rib bones (apparently on lunch break), nothing unusual. I didn't even run out of time on the parking meter. Absolute nirvana I tell you ;)

It seems that the only reason they ask you to come down to the Assessor's office is to verify your signature. I am quite clear that city legislatures and the CIO of metropolitan areas could figure out how utilize OpenID or some other centralized authentication method to accomplish this feat. I would not be surprised if this already being done in more advanced circles.

Attack of the Carpenter Ants

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My backyard has become a lush grassland and haven for various pests. I take full responsibility for the unkept appearance. Recently, I decided to embark on a scorched earth campaign. There was a large bush which was covered with with carpenter ants which were harvesting honeydew from large aphid colony.

After removing the food source, I noticed the ants seemed to disappear. Luckily, the tree is about 30 yards from the house, but I did not want to take any chances. I purchased some AMDRO pellets, and sprinkle around the garage area. Much time was spent reading various articles on carpenter ants and their various species.

Generally, pellets are not viewed as the preferred method for ridding yourself of these pests. The container stated that it would take roughly one month for the chemical to take effect. To my surprise, I noticed an immediate impact. Within 96 hrs, I began to see what appeared to be drunken carpenter ants. Apparently, the worker drones had carried the pellets into the nest and poisoned several workers. There was even an appearance of 'winged' drones, which I had not seen previously. Lots of buzzing inside of my garage. Perhaps the most important discovery was that the ants had created an elaborate channeled tunnels in the baseboard of the garage. The rotting wood is a by-product of a leaking garage roof. I am thoroughly impressed with the results.

Self-Manifestation

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Everyone has a vision which orchestrates their future success. KRS is arguably prophetic in both hip-hop culture and human achievement.

What follows is an open letter to Brooklyn Technical HS principal. As many of you know, I have always been a huge supporter of my alma mater. I learned many good lessons and met phenomenal people at BTHS. However, I see changes that are almost never good for under represented people in the sciences and technology.

I can appreciate that Mr. Asher is quite busy, but I would hope that he would eventually respond to my scribe.

Funeral musings

I attended a funeral for the father of a former mentee. This was the first time I had attended a funeral. Nope, I do not find this unusual for someone who is +30.

Nonetheless, despite the fact that I ate the bread wafer (eucharist??) before, I was to dip it into the wine(grape juice)... The ceremony was well received, the gentleman touched the lives of many. He served as a surrogate father for me. Because I have not lived at home for many years, I typically am displaced during family based holidays. His family has been very gracious in providing a place for me. I genuinely enjoyed mentoring his son, it was very gratifying and enriched me immensely.

Human Capital Potential

I spent time talking with some colleagues regarding the importance people vs. process. It seems that there is questions is a difficult one for management to solve. Conventional wisdom suggests that people are commodities to be used when most appropriate. Actually, I'm not certain that this is the best answer. In fact, I asked this same question of my Linked-In community and the answers were quite thought provoking.

So, do you fit people to the process or fit the process to the people. Arguably, you will not have a successful process if you do not have the correct blend of talented people. I suppose to some extent, you must take great care to provide the best training for your personnel.

Lastly, there is that expectation that leadership is a 'natural selection' process. In that, leaders will gravitate to the head of the pack and provide stability for the process in question. I have never subscribed to the idea of a natural born leader. I happen to believe that leadership can be taught and is a learned behavior.

May I have a receipt?

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As tax time approaches, I unlike many others actually enjoy the preparation of my tax return. The simple trick is save _every_ receipt and use a reliable budget or expense reconciliation method. Yeah, I know that vendors look at you crazy when they have hastily taken your money and given you the goods which you've just purchased, but actually a receipt should always be part of every transaction. Regardless of what is being sold (snacks, coffee, water, etc). These knick-knack items add up and almost all of them are not fixed costs, so they can be controlled.

If you get into the habit of collecting receipts for everything you purchase, it becomes quite simple to track and plot your monthly expenses. So when tax time rolls around and you must produce accurate records for your accountant or for some simple tax program, you do not have to guess about about itemized deductions. Hell, you don't even have to claim mystery children or other foolishness.

The tracking system need not be very complicated at all. A simple spreadsheet will suffice. Just make sure that you have some sort of accordion, tabbed folder which list all of your monthly expense categories (ie dinner, lunch, home furnishing, gas, groceries, etc). If you're really sophisticated, you can run a program like GNUcash or some other financial software to help track your annual expenses and help you manage your small business expenses. I suppose the beauty of all of this is that you can begin to see trends and even find that _extra_ loot that you thought you have been missing. The extra loot can then be diverted to money market or CD. Perhaps you could then use some of this money to finance your next overseas vacation.

Bottom Line: If you think of your financial health as a Fortune 100 business, you will be more likely to take an aggressive approach to cost savings and waste reduction. Frugality becomes a learned behavior.

How about Park Slope in '79

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Had to chuckle when I read about this Rushkoff's public ordeal. It seems that B'klyn has become overrun with migrants from other parts of the country. Many of them are shocked or appalled that crime still exists even in the so-called exclusive areas in the BK.

My family left the city(Manhattan) to the safe haven of Park Slope section of BK in 79. It was much different during this time. I wonder how Rushkoff would have thought about his quaint Park Slope during those early years? Park Slope certainly didn't look very much like the gentrified village that people drool over today. Heck, Park Slope was just a sliver which ran from Prospect Park West to somewhere on 4th Ave. Times have certainly changed. Though, I no longer live in the Slope, I do visit fairly frequently. I never feel threatened and I rarely worry about crime. Dunno, but it seems that people move to BK, and live there only a few years and become instant authorities.

However, your best defense is common sense. I could be wrong, but my hypothesis is that gentrification gives folks a false sense of security. Recognize that you live in an area which has a fairly large disparity of wealth. If you're not sure, peep Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, East New York, and a few other places. Clear your vision.

Discussion on Brian Lehrer Show courtesy of WNYC

stevenberlinjohnson.com: On Leaving Brooklyn

NYC musings

Enjoying family and friends. Actually peeped a Nets game. Though they lost to the Lakers, it was good to hang out with friends. I will eventually update my flickr pics. If you're in the tri-state area, drop me a line. Enjoy the holidays

I've been tagged

Heh, I thought this was a blogspot-ism, nonetheless since I respect the person that tagged me I'll bite ;)

Wow, this a little tough, as I lead such a public life online :P
I will do my best and _not_ repeat stuff that you can easily find on my site within 5 minutes.

1) I am a Kitchen Kemist, that is I enjoy cooking. Peep my flickr pics for evidence.

2) Though I love all things computing, I don't have a traditional CS background. I'm self-taught, school of hard knocks. I prefer it that way.

3) I am a novice gardener, my pops has the green thumb tho.

4) As a youngster, I used to carry a two-shot, pearl handle Derringer. Yeah, I was tough guy then.

5) Survived one of the worse peacetime U.S Naval disasters - May 17,1987 (USS Stark) nuff said

6) I'm actively seeking my birthparents. I was adopted at the age of nine. More on this later.

7) Lastly today is my birthday, show ya luv :)

Ok.. I've done the deed and will tell no more. Guess I must hit some other people.

Ejovi
Ras
Tiffany
David
Keith
Michael
Kim

In Search Of

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Lately I've redoubled my efforts to locate my birthparents, I was able to retain the services of a genealogist (thx Nikki), and based upon what the lady has shared, it would appear that I have located my biological mother. Unfortunately, after making a call to the residence, I was offered much denial, and I really did not get an opportunity for closer.

Understand that I did not go into this journey looking for a fairytale as I'm much too old for that sort of thinking. Nonetheless, I was expecting closure and had hoped to gain information into health history and perhaps also gain knowledge of my siblings. Basically, it would appear that I'll have to make a personal visit to the residence or try an alternative method.

Recently I spent a great deal of time with the genealogist who performed the initial search. I had begun to wonder whether the genealogist would continue to help, as she had already fulfilled her contract (and grabbed deposited her check). She quelled my anxiety by intervening and helping me make sense of some of the information and the behavior.

I've talked about the perils associated with under-represented youth in technical areas of study.

It is difficult for me to fathom that our children simply do not want to excel. Certainly there are issues of access, mentorship, and socio-economics. Nonetheless, I would assert that the problem is much broader than we are led to believe.

My beloved alma mater, BTHS is mentioned in the artile below, and I am certain that most of the students who gain entrance to the the elite NYC specialized HS are indeed interested in achievment.

It also appears that in at least one case there is foul play afoot, relative to funding AP exams.

Taking the point a step further, one could point to elementary education as the beginning of the problem. I recently picked up the Final Call and the title read "Escaping the Killing Fields", very unfortunate depiction of public schools.

What does the future hold for our children? As a product of public education, I refuse to believe that public schools have zero value. I'm clear that vouchers aren't the panacea for all concerned..

The article below requires priviledged access. If anyone can point me to a cached article, let me know.

In Elite N.Y. Schools, a Dip in Blacks and Hispanics - New York Times

Yet another New England trip

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Found my way to Manchester,NH. Another jobe assignment. I politely asked for a blue yankee at a local eatery, oddly nobody was willing to help me.. I kid b/c I care. Go Bx Bombers.

Mattoon swoon

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Spent yesterday on assignment for the jobe. Visited a lighting facility and the hotel had the most perfect view of a cornfield. Gotta love the midwest. As it turns out this facility was third largest employer in the town. Guess who was the first? A local university. How funny is that? Can you say bum fuck ?

ClueTrain Manifesto

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Well, I finally finished this book. Though the book was written over five years ago (during the dotcom burst) and is considered "old" in Internet years, the discussion is quite relevant for our time. Thus, I figured it would be good to review it here. Perhaps the most valuable lesson to be learned from the text is that 'business as usual' is gone forever. In other words, if you haven't been able to decipher the importance of including your customers into your product development process or value proposition.... Your business is likely to fail miserably.

Although, the text used Information Technology examples, these issues are problematic for all industries. Moreover, the solutions and methodologies would be beneficial to industries outside of IT. There was a great deal of attention spent on characterizing business as open dialogue or candid conversations with the customer. The authors made painstaking efforts to make sure that people understood that you cannot have a hidden agenda when you're dealing with customers. If you're concerned about brand image, the worst possible scenario would be to apppear disingenuous in the eyes of your customer.

The authors warned companies from trying to regurgitate failed mainstream marketing and deploying them as new value inside of the Internet space. If you look back to the dotcom implosion, it was mainly due to poor marketing and advertising schemes. The authors made parallels with material from the Cathedral and the Bazaar and there was discussion of the Open Source business model. The Digital or Information age has certainly stood business on its head.

Commencement Exercises - Revisited

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Graduation went well and I got a chance to see more old friends. I'm continually reminded that time does not stand still. Coming back to the yard, is very therapeutic, in that I can see not only my growth but that of others. Definitely proud of my cousin and her achievements, she has beaten the odds.

Nonetheless, I did remind her that this only the beginning. Stay focused. As a FAMU alumni, I was also reminded to renew my contributions too ;) I hadn't forgotten, just a bit distracted that's all.

I'll probably connect with more of my friends this evening. Will likely hit the library tomorrow, so that I can grab a few more papers to assist with my thesis. Academia, gotta love it ...

Commencement Exercises

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Despite all attempts to miss my flight (ie late arrival, driving passed the long-term parking location), I arrived in Florida for FAMU's graduation ceremony. I've not been here since 2001, so it should be interesting. Lots of catching up to do.

I also took an opportunity to review the Magellen 750, which is used for the Hertz Never Lost system. A very slick GPS system. I've not used very many GPS products, so it could be that I'm easily impressed. However, I've found the controls and interface to be very intuitive. Besides I have not gotten lost yet, so that must be pretty good.

I'll be around until Monday afternoon. If anyone is in TLH, and wants to connect. Drop me a few lines.

Can't knock the hustle

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I've always enjoyed the deals that can be obtained on e-Bay. One of these days, I'm going to find the time to completely clean out my basement of unwanted electronics and hardware. However, until that time I suppose I'll remain a buyer and not a seller.

Recently, I purchased a SCSI/USB scanner. I never thought I'd ever have a need for a scanner,but my head instructor at my dojang provided the funding. He asked me to scan some photos for a forthcoming site. Now that classes are done, I might actually have some time to fire up Drupal and get it done.

Well, during my last e-Bay, excursion I got into a frenzied bidding war with some unknown entity. It seemed that each time I placed a bid and refreshed the browser, that random bidder submit one with a 0.50 over mine. I played this game four times, as the starting bid blossomed from $15 to $65 bucks. At this time I said forget it, not worth that much. Then I started googling and discovered that there are actually bots setup by _clever_ sellers. They bid up the merchandise to inflated levels to entice e-Bay newbies to continue bidding. What usually happens is that bot bails out of the bidding at the last minute, and you get stuck with overpriced merchandise. It is pretty difficult for a human to cancel a bid. Hmm.. Why didn't I think of that?

When I learned of this, I immediately, thought about three card monte game. For those of you who don't know (ain't from the streets of NYC), three-card monte is a famous hustle. Basically, you've got to guess which of the three cards will appear after the hustler, err I mean cards holder finishes moving the cards on the cardboard, err I mean table. Not too hard huh? Well, there is usually always one person who wins. So you get excited and you come in and all of a sudden you start losing.
I almost got caught out there. Who knows how high the bid would have become?

Complaints and objections are meaningless if they go unheard. I've never been one to hold my tongue when I disagree with the level of service. I have no problem returning hardware that has performed unsatisfactorly. A couple years ago, I purchased a Jabra BT200 and was very excited about being an early adopter of bluetooth technology. Immediately, I began to notice imperfections in the design and general annoyances (ie talk time, poor transmitter cradle, auto-answer feature inoperable). I initially, chalked it up as early adopter growing pains, but as I began to talk to others who owned the same device, they too had the same problems. Moreover, I spoke with people who purchased competitive products, and they were _not_ having any problems.

Paper Helicopter DOE musings

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As some of you already know, this semester I'm taking a graduate course in Design of Experiments(DOE). We recently performed the very popular paper helicopter experiment. Actually, I had done this experiment in 2002, as part of Six Sigma Green Belt training. After reviewing some literature, I discovered that most researchers did not emphasize the physics of the drag or air resistance. Although, I firmly believe that you must understand first principles or the fundamentals of physics, prior to undertaking a fluid dynamics problem. Otherwise, you're likely to misinterpret the results of your experiment. Statistical tools are fine, but common sense can keep you out of trouble.

Only in NYC

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One of the reasons, I love the Gothamist. Always keeps me apprised of interesting news in my beloved city.

I still remember the Ringling Bros & Barnum Bailey Circus. Always wondered how those elephants got into that big top.

It was always a little stinky too, but that is life in the big city.

Gothamist: Running of the Elephants 2006

My adoption journey

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I wish it were as simple as Darryl (aka DMC) made it appear on the VH1, hour long show. The pseudo documentary captured his abbreviated search for his birth-mother. While I suspect, that Darryl Lovelace spent many years contemplating and struggling with the many unknowns associated with being an adoptee, the show did very little to capture the 'realness'.. I suppose it would be too obvious to state that a guy with celebrity to the highest degree is more likely to uncover mysteries than Joe Schmuckatella. Well, that's television for you. Sort of like the Antwone Fisher story.

Last Frontier

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I've not seen this vehicle, but have heard a great deal about it. It's going to be very interesting to see if Toyota can make a big splash in Texas, Florida, and some of the other southern states where SuperDuty sales are immense.

I understand that Toyota has an assembly plant in the heart of Texas, somewhere near San Antonio. Strategically, it appears to be death blow. Only time will tell.

Toyota Vies for One of Detroit's Last Strongholds - New York Times

On Target Auto Industry Views

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The summary is very succint and quite concise. The only disagreement I have is that hybrid technology is the panacea for gross market share.

Otherwise he hits the target without question. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that the hemmoraging will only get worse if both companies do not get smaller very quickly. Additionally, it certainly wouldn't hurt to make exciting, quality, fuel efficient products that consumers are compelled to purchase. All of which, would require a definite culture paradigm shift, that I'm not certain is easily attainable at this juncture.

An Enterprise Architects View on Ford/GM

Making of a trebuchet - revisited

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Finally posted the pics from the Systems engineering trebuchet firing competition. They can be found in the photo journal.
For those of you who are clueless, take a look at the earlier post.

Enjoy, and I'll also be updating my wildly popular movie reviews.

Getting underway

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I'll be heading home today and have put together most of what I'll need for the 10hr trip. I grabbed a bunch of podcasts and will prolly have 10hrs of uninterrupted music/talk. Gotta luv it. Who needs mainstream media, Sirrius or XMradio when you've got podcasts ;)

Speaking of podcasts,now that I've finished mixing tracks in audacity. Please enjoy my very raw inaugural podcast.

Shownotes:

Customer Service

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Some of you may know that I also maintain a small PC consulting business. Essentially, I rebuild hardware and install software for clients. The majority are M$ users, but there are occasions where I have been asked to build a Linux firewall or mail server. Because I do have a day job, my rates are very competitive and I have the freedom to tackle the jobs of my choice.

More recently I completed a system rebuild for a friend who wanted to upgrade from the very ancient WinME to WinXP. I have performed this sort of evolution at least ten instances over the past two years. So, I did not expect very many surprises.

Although the client was a friend, I always approach the job in the same manner. That is, I attempt to understand the project scope, repeat the client needs to assure accuracy. In particular, there was a proprietary database, which was used to enter church member information. It was made clear that this database needed be restored on the new system. I really didn't give it too much thought because I figured that it would be a simple text file. So, backing up the text file would not be very difficult. So I thought..

Options - Hedging your bets

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I've never done very well on the stock market, in fact I don't know many people who have done very well. My first experience with an IPO was the upstart Transmeta(TMTA). I remember it well, as I used my now defunct Datek account to buy 50shares. I was really amped because I thought the Crusoe CPU, which employed code morphing(software that speeds up the processor) strategy was far superior to that of Intel's hardware(Moore's Law) model. I remember salivating after reading Transmeta's initial white paper. I may have also been pursuaded due to the fact they had Linus on their payroll too..

Well, Transmeta had the misfortune to have launched its campaign in 2000, immediately following the dotcom implosion. It also had logistical problems, and couldn't deliver on its increased battery life for notebooks. I lost $500, but it was a great learning exercise.

Now I primarily do traditional vehicles (Real Estate, Roth, and 401K).
Never really thought about Options, as a possible power move. I always thought that it required big gusto loot :) Ejovi helps clarify the strategy.

Ejovi Nuwere

Making of a trebuchet

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Lately, most of my time has been consumed by coursework. As the semester winds down, I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. One of the more interesting courses this semester is Systems Engineering. Our final team project is to build a trebuchet. It was a perfect sedgeway from my earlier post. The idea is to use system engineering tools and predictive analysis software (ie. FEA, Atreb V2.2, Minitab) to develop a robust trebuchet to satisfy customer requirements.

The course was divided into two phases:

Part I. Planning and predictive analysis
Part II.Validation, Fabrication and Testing.

Both Part I and Part II, make up what is called the System Engineering "V".
Left side is strictly design for robustness and prediction. The right side is the hardware validation and testing.
We were not allowed to build/test the treb until Part II.

The commercial software package Atreb V2.2, was tremendous, as it helped us understand the physics of a trebuchet. Although, our group is comprised of mechanical and electrical engineers. Nobody knew how the contraption worked, and I certainly wasn't born in the middle-ages. The treb operation was based upon first principles, but it clearly was non-trivial.

We used Minitab, a statistical tool, as a means to develop a sensitivity analysis, which would help validate our DOE.
We could then better understand the variability or the noise factors inherent to our design (ie. main arm pin friction, counterweight mass, main arm length).
After running Minitab, we studied the main-effects and then used this information to begin modeling the treb in CatiaV5.
Once we had a general idea how to model the package, we set out to improve robustness.

Why study engineering?

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I found the article below to be very insightful. Before I begin to dissect the article and apply my uniquely qualified opinion, allow me to digress for a moment.

It occured to me that there are not enough commercial entities which offer encouragement, much less romanticize the field of engineering. Instead, you're more likely to find shows which emphasize the high drama of the doctors or lawyers. Why is that?

Actually, some of you may recall the show called MacGyver, it depicted a guy who was a great problem solver. I have no idea if he was an engineer but he clearly was resourceful and inquisitive, both of which are attributes of many engineers. The show aired for about seven years and was pulled off the air. I don't believe it has received much syndication. In fact, it was the only show of its type. In contrast, there have been a never ending deluge of court, hospital and lately business shows. To reiterate my point, it was the only show which glamourized what I consider 'engineer-like' traits. Don't misunderstand, I do believe that law and medicine are admirable professions, and both require a certain amount of discipline, but it is clearly not engineering.

I suppose the stereotypical stigmas associated with engineering (ie. taped glasses, exaggerated overbite, etc) are partly responsible. Yeah, just like the popular sitcom Family MattersUrkel. I'm sure everyone remembers Animal House too. It has been said that most engineers are anti-social and lack essential communication skills. While I do know some that fit that description, I would argue that these are largely myths. The problem I have with all of these misguided perceptions, is that it has become a deterent to aspiring scientists and engineers. These days the term nerd or geek isn't nearly as offensive to some. However, a youngster may not understand and begin to develop self hatred and a disdain for fascinations that really describe their interests and ultimately define their personality. The sad truth is there aren't enough high schools that foster excellence. Fortunately, I attend BTHS, and it did have its share of very talented, err shall I say nerdy teenagers.

Church musings

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I have never been a church attendee, the reasons are numerous. I'll get into them later in this post. I do recall being a child/teenager, and being forced to attend. Well, I should not say forced, I was expected to behave as my Southern relatives. That is, all of them went to church each Sunday. So, if they graciously permitted me to stay with them during the Summer, as I escaped from the streets of NY, I had better conform to their rituals. As I grew older, I began to respectfully question the routine. Later I would travel the world and experience different cultures, and really understand some of the problems caused by religion or its mininterpretation. These days I only enter a church or chapel when a wedding is underway(I've never attended a funeral).

Family

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Since I've been home, I've had the pleasure of eating dinner with pops and also spending time with some of my uncles in Q-Boro. It's actually pretty comical to be around these guys. My oldest uncle is a World War II veteran who lost most of his hearing many years ago. He now is forced to wear woefully inadequate hearing aids. I have found that it can be quite challenging to have a normal conversation with him. Recently he asked me to increase the volume on his cell phone headset. I noticed that his Nokia headset was quite outdated. As I looked at the headset, it became painfully obvious that there was no intuitive means to increase the volume. So, I told him that the volume was already at its highest setting. Truth be told, my dear uncle really needs a better set of hearing aids.

A few years ago, I suggested the Miracle Ear, but it fell upon on deaf ears (pun intended). I also made the suggestion to his adult children, but they either didn't believe it necessary or did not wish to finance it. I don't know which case is more true. I currently live in another state, so I'm probably not the best person to force the issue. So I simply left it alone.

So anytime we speak with the eldest uncle, much effort is used to get your point across. Both of my uncles are ordained ministers and have many years of experience.

During our rare dinner together, I made sure that I told them that I greatly enjoy spending time together. As I get older, I realize that nothing is guaranteed, so it is wise to appreciate quality time with family.

Airport musings

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I spent the part of my afternoon waiting for my flight to LGA, I have always been fascinated with the odd people you see. For instance, some random sista with locks sat down across from me. I glanced her direction wondering what she was about, I didn't find her especially pleasing to the eye, so I again buried my head in my book.

In a matter of a few minutes, she began to talk to herself. No she didn't have a bluetooth device or anything that resembled headset. She was just mumbling. I'm thinking, "Here we go... ". I again bury my head in the book. Later she makes a call to her mother, telling her how afraid she was of the weird people in the airport. She uttered some unsavoury stuff about Arabs and Jews. She kept repeating the fact that she was so scared, and had never been so frightened about a plane flight in her life. I believe she was a bit unstable, as she thought some people looked like terrorists. The b-o-m-b word was used in this conversation to moms. I thought, damn I home Mom has got it together so that she can calm her daughter.

Dilated Pupils - Revisited

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As I type this entry, I'm wearing my special UV goggles. Now that most of my sight has been restored I can tell you that LASIK surgery was successful. Although, I spent more time waiting in the clinic than I would have preferrred, I do not have very many complaints about the experience. It was painless. The only weird aspect of the procedure is the method of which they hold your eyes open.
Obviously, you cannot move nor blink while the laser is burning away the cornea tissue. You can actually smell the burning. Pretty surreal, huh.

Before, going into the surgery suite, I thought running a LASIK clinic would probably be good money. It seems that the only real overhead is leasing the space. They really don't have permanent staff, as they fly in the surgeon and techs.
The resident ophthalmologist and support technicians are the only staff. Everyone else appears to be there on loan based upon the workload. So, I suppose you could minimize your expenses by maintaining a skeleton crew.

Additionally, most LASIK centers do not accept HMO, PPO provider coverage, so their costs are not regulated by health boards. Essentially, they get their cash immediately. The average client is paying $1000.00 for the procedure.
I quickly did the math and realized that they were making nice coin. They probably see 15-30 patients per day.
I dont know of the attrition rate, most likely there will always be people who decide to cancel and opt out of the surgery.

What is a diva?

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This phrase seems to be used rather loosely these days. Apparently, all women cannot be divas, although, they might wish to adorn themselves with that moniker. Is a diva a female with great expectations, lots of attitude, and high maintenance? Someone please educate me. Perhaps more specifically, I should ask what a diva is not?
Case in point, I met random female at a gathering some weeks ago. After I had some grub and a few drinks, we had what I would classify, as a generic conversation.

Here we go again..

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I had heard about this incident last week, but reserved comment until I had read about the particulars. It appears that Howard Beach is again going to be red hot for awhile. Not sure if Sharpton and company will march through the area in solidarity, but it is certain that the streets will be watching this case with great interest.

Does anyone really know if the victim attacked with a baseball was indeed going to burglarize a parked car? Even if he was actually a thief, should local residents become vigilanties and beat down random black folks? What if the victim had a firearm, and sprayed the assailants and unlucky pedestrians? Not a good scenario.

It's Not '86, Residents Say, Seeing a River of Blame That Flows Two Ways - New York Times

Dilated pupils

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I have been contemplating LASIK surgery to correct my near-sighted condition. Yeah, I know it's all vanity, but it would be nice to finally rid myself of eyeglasses. Not sure if would take strokes off my golf game or improve my admittedly diminishing basketball skills, it will be cool to have 20/20 vision.

This past weekend was spent completing pre-op surgery. As part of the procedure, you're required to get your pupils dilated. Essentially, you get a few drops and roughly 10 minutes later you cannot read anything up close. It had been close to four years since I had my pupils dilated, the drops irritaged my eyes a great deal. One of the lab assistants jokingly told me to 'Man up !'. Wow, she was fortunate that I do have a sense of humor. The Ophthalmologist told me that I was a good candidate for the surgery, and that I had an adequate sized cornea, so the laser could cut the required flap without effecting my vision. The alternative would have been a relatively more complicated and painful PRK procedure that is offered to patients who don't qualify for LASIK.

After I suffered driving home under the glare of an overcast sky, I went back to sleep for a couple of hours. After my eyes regained focus, I began to do a bit of schoolwork.

Later, I finally got an opportunity to ride my bike. Actually, it had been probably ten years since I last rode a bike. It's amazing how cautious one becomes as you advance in age. I was actually leary about crossing a busy street. At age 15-22, I would've jetted across the street without any regard for 'so-called' safety. Very different times now.

Surgery is set for July 31st, you know I'll share the details.

Landlord Musings

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After suffering through a period where the property was vacant for six months, I have no complaints about delving into the world of Real Estate. Primarily most of service call requests are made during the cold weather months, as the home gets more utility. Obviously becoming a landlord isn't for everyone, but it has afforded me with another means of residual income.

Because the area I selected is full of people that would rather rent than own, I have been able to take advantage of the need. I suppose that one day this trend will end, but I still believe that I will be the benefactor of such a change of events. Additionally, there is certain level of pride in providing a quality home to a deserving family. Thus far my tenants have been excellent. Clearly a testament to an arduous selection process.


In a Real Estate Boom, Many Try Life as a Landlord - New York Times

Generally productive

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Last couple of weeks have been fairly productive. As usual, I have a mountain of coursework to accomplish. Spent most of last weekend writing a Systems Architecture paper. However, I did find time to purchase a bike, plant flowers, and address an assortment of errands too.

I'll plant the remainder of my Day Lillies and Hostas today. Hmmm. Maybe I'll even ride my bike tomorrow. This will only happen if I can get most of my homework done and resolve a very perplexing computer hardware problem.
It appears that my SMP setup has a corrupted CPU cache. Now the BIOS is feeding erroneous data to my Linux kernel. I can at least boot my box now, but the system is still crippled and not running at full efficency. I turned off the CPU caching within my BIOS, and this promptly broke SMP. Luckily, the system is fairly stable with one CPU.
Not entirely sure if my motherboard is failing or the BIOS is corrupted. One certainty is that I've never had problems from any ASUS hardware, so I'm inclined to believe the hardware is fine.

Next I plan to make a few changes to LILO, and turn off the pci based ACPI calls, thus the kernel will ignore the BIOS request for this CPU information.

For those who are interested, I made a few minor changes to the blog front page. I finally broke down and added a link to my linked-in professional social network profile. Some of you have asked about getting at me via IM, you'll see the AIM link too.

I also plan to fix a few blog templates which broke during my upgrade to MT 3.0.
Productivity is a good thing. You should try it ;)

Miserable ride

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Although I never rode either of the buses mentioned in the article, I can compare my experience on the Rikers Isle Bus. Anyone who is familiar with Queens, can attest that most destinations are two fare zones. In my case, I was on a mission to see my brother who was 'knocked' for aggravated assault. Luckily, I didn't have to deal with the two fare madness, as I drove my car to the Rikers bus depot. Later I would take the bus across the bridge and then go throught the very invasive processing unit.

I certainly pitied the women who make that run, as part of a daily operation. For whatever reason, it's the life that they have chosen to accept.
On the Outside, Busing In - New York Times

Rebuilding High Schools

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Interesting article regarding NYC public high school restructuring. As I reviewed the percentages of minorities, I did notice a sharp decline in African-Americans at my beloved BTHS. Very disturbing indeed. During my recent trip back to B'klyn Tech, I never got the opportunity to ask the current principal, Dr. Lee D. McCaskill, about this decline. Hopefully, I'll get an opportunity to do so in the near future.

High School Students (Gotham Gazette. April, 2005)

Bike Hunting

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Spent the better part of the morning talking to a very informed salesperson. Thus far I have visited two stores, Roll Models and Planet Cycle. It has been at least a decade since I owned a bicycle. Back in the days I used to ride a Fuji ten-speed. These days, it would be called a obsolete touring bike. I was totally amazed by the advancement in technology. Hand grip shifters, disc brakes, comfort mountain and hybrids. One constant remains, as every bike within my price point were manufactured in China. I am not at all surprised that all of the bikes made in the US, are priced at $600.00 and up. Not very competitive.

Small Glitch

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Yeah, I know the blog main index page was down for ~ 1.5 days. I'd run out of disk space on my webserver slice. The blog database (Berkley DB) does not respond well to space limitations. I'd considered upgrading to mySQL, but if it's not broken, why mess with it. Got more important things to do with my time anyway.

B'klyn mob - BTHS 20yr Reunion

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B'klyn mob
Originally uploaded by AG_.
I've finally uploaded all of the photos to my flickr site. Had to do it this way since I've run out of disk space on my server. I had mad fun 'kickin live' with the class of 85. Can't wait until 2010 so we can do it all again.

One small rant - Whoever decided to give the alumni a miniature tool kit complete with metal screwdrivers, drill bits, etc. Please reconsider such gifts in the future. I avoided making an ugly scene at LGA by simply telling the airport security droids to simply keep the damn kit. I wonder how many other air travellers experienced the same difficulties ?

BTHS Reunion -Revisited

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I spent the majority of the day walking the hallowed halls of Brooklyn Tech High School, and connecting with old friends. Definitely, a great deal of fun. There were building tours taking place throughout the afternoon. Lunch was provided by the world famous Junior's resturant on Flatbush. To be honest, it was the first time I had eaten a meal in this place, and its probably due to the fact that their food is average, but the cheescake is always phenomenal.

We capped off the night with dancing, courtesy of my homeboy, Darnell at Rockwell's Bar and Lounge. Fellow Tech Head, Garrett Buckley, put it down on the digitial Denon CD-mixer. Although he didn't use any vinyl, the music was definitely slamming.

Guess what? We get to do it all over again tomorrow. Don't worry, I'll give you a full report.

What is it about airports anyway?

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Seems that I always meet interesting women on flights abroad. Whether its Vegas or NYC.
Good stuff. Many out of town females come to NYC to shop till they drop. I suppose they find it helpful to converse with a native of the area. I gave her a couple pointers.

Check out Time Out NY for the latest haps in the city, and the Woodbury Commons for the clothes shopping experience.

Hmm. Perhaps I'll have a nice breakfast before I head back to the midwest.

BTHS Reunion

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In couple of weeks, I'll be attending my first official high school reunion. BTHS was a very fun place to learn for me. If I were to summarize my experience there it would be rebellious, unfettered exploration. I really wasn't a hell raiser, but I certainly did my share of experimentation. My adolescence was truly a 'rites of passage' to adulthood. Although, I don't get back home to my beloved borough of B'klyn as much, as I'd like, I still have lasting bonds with many Tech Headz. Many of us are spread throughout the country.

The school is one of the few remaining bastions of high quality learning in the NYC public school system. I really wish there were more 'specialized' high schools of this type throughout the country. With all of the talk of education vouchers and the like, I wonder if we will ever see more public schools like BTHS, Bronx Science or Stuyvesant?

New Beginnings

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Just a few housekeeping items..

Some of you have been unable to post comments. I figured it would be wise to explain some of the changes I've implemented to counter the comment spam. When posting a comment, you must first select preview. After previewing, then select post. This strategy assures that your message won't be rejected or throttled. Hopefully this will clear up any confusion.
Please be advised that all first-time commenters will be moderated, after I review the comment for its authenticity and content, I will then publish it.

Still confused ? Send me a msg and we'll talk.

Now, onto the real news...

Insanity

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I have just been diagnosed as a stark raving lunatic. If I were not insane, there would be no explanation for why I agreed to taking 9 credit hours of graduate school courses this semester. I suppose that this alone is not suicidal, but if you couple it with working 40hrs, clearly you have a very volatile situation. Someone did an analysis that states that you need 3hrs of study for every credit hour. So, doing the math I actually need 27 hrs of study for the 9 credit hours that I am maintaining.

Where's the small padded cell and straight jacket? I'm fatigued and confused.

New stuff

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If you were wondering when I'd update the photo journal, stop the guessing. Alas, I've updated it with some recent pics and some not-so recent pics.
Should give you an idea of what I have been doing these past few months.

Rent Party

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First post of 2K5. The prodigal son has returned ;) He's amped too. Just finished shoveling six inches of snow like a crazed lunatic. After I completed the task, I let out the blood curdling cry of a Bhantu warrior. Anyway I digress.

Wow, it's been nearly a month since my last entry. I do hope that you have not forgotten about me. I am sure that most of you realize that I enjoy virtually talking with you. So much has happened since I returned from vacation, and started 2K5. Hmm... Where shall I begin ? I was forced to shut down public comments on the blog due to very aggressive comment spammers. I have since restored this feature and upgraded my blog publishing engine software to thwart the efforts of these annoying cowards.

Power of the Consumer

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People know me to be very frugal. I take great pleasure in keeping my living expenses as low as possible. Additionally, I routinely challenge all of my vendors (ie utilities, cable, cellular,etc) for cost savings. I'm clear that most consumers don't realize the power that they have at their disposal. Moreover, it is not necessary to become a sacrifical lamb, simply because you cannot perform a desired service yourself. Use your collective bargaining power to drive cost for service down through healthy competition.

For instance, I received an unsolicited offer for a teeth bleaching service from a dental office seeking to grow its business. The price point of $100.00 was much lower than that of my personal dentist. He charges $350.00 for the same service. So, I immediately informed my dentist of the offer made to me, and requested that the same service be rendered for the equivalent cost.

Call For Help

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As I have stated in the past, I was first introduced to the internet in 1992. In fact, it was during my undergrad days at FAMU. We had old token-ring networks and used IBM's PROFs to send email to the rest of the world.

My computing affliction took root (pun intended) when I was introduced to UNIX in 1994. While at Texas A&M, discovered that UNIX was an industrial strength OS that spawned the internet and later the World Wide Web.

Specifically, I was interested in developing webpages, so that I could tell my story to the world. In most cases, I used Sparc Solaris pizza boxes and vi editor to write mostly primitive webpages. Ultimately, I had to learn UNIX to manifest the webpages.

So I wondered, how could I do this cool stuff at home? In 1996, someone mentioned that I could run an OS called Linux. In those days, it was best known as a clone for the x86 platform.


Grad School - The Sequel

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I have another opportunity to finish graduate school. Some of you may recall that my first attempt was less than favorable. Nonetheless, I have always been very persistent in my endeavors. The previous graduate program was my first experience with the, non-traditional, VHS based and online streaming courseware. Although this model was perhaps best suited for the busy professional, I quickly discovered that this model was not best suited for my approach to learning. I seem to respond better to the more traditional classroom and instructor lecture model. Moreover, I have found that it is always better to have interaction with other students on a regular basis.

Block Party - Nobody Told Me

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Heck, I guess you've got to be alert to all the happenings. I suppose I'm not connected to the streets anymore.

Anyway, I understand I missed a great party in Fort Greene. I would have went home for this one.

Gothamist: Dave Chappelle's Block Party/Film/Fugees Reunion

Remembrance

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Although I never kept a journal in 2K1, I certainly had many thoughts on 9/11. In fact, I had just returned from the Tri-State area. After having spent six months living in South Plainfield, NJ and working in Edison. Additionally, I was also afforded the opportunity to go home to B'klyn on weekends, to help comfort my pops, as he recovered from a kidney transplant. 2K1 was really turning out to be a great year for me.

Thievery - Revisited

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Early last week I discovered that I was a victim of petty left. I had suspected that the neighorborhood kids were to blame. Well, recent events confirmed my suspicions.

After mowing my lawn late one evening, three young kids on bikes came up to me and asked to verify my address. Later, they asked if I was missing my insurance papers. I asked where they found the papers, and they claimed that they were behind their home. Likely story. These kids lived two doors down from me. They walked me to their house, while I waited outside, I wondered when the parents would show up. No parents ever appeared. In fact, it appeared as though the kids were running the household.

Theivery

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Someone helped themselves to loose change and my vehicle owners manual. I fault myself, as I had not parked the car in my garage and the doors were unlocked. Nonetheless, I am annoyed that they got copies of my auto registration, auto insurance card, and a set of keys to a remote PO Box.

I suspect that they were young kids, as they didn't steal any of my highly treasured mix-tapes or CDs. If they had, I would have gone bezerk. They didn't steal any of the stereo equipment (Kenwood CD/tape player, 10 Disc Changer).

Definitely, relieved that my carelessness did not result in a greater loss. I suppose when you sleep, you get 'got'. Must be losing my NY edge. It won't happen again.

The Linx

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Golf is a very humbling game and is quite different than most sports. Although I do not play very often(typically twice a year), I do enjoy the outings and time away from the office. I suppose I have to thank Tiger for introducing me to the game. Clearly, if it were not for his success and dominance in the sport, I would not have any interest in playing at all. Heck, I was raised on the 'street' game of basketball.

Investment Property - Revisited

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Well, I have finally put up a for rent sign on the lawn of my 1st property. Despite the fact that there are a few small jobs that remain, I will still show the cozy bungaloo.

The entire project took entirely too long (~5months); however, it was my first and I was definitely short on disposable income. When I jump into the next project, I'm seriously considering taking off the project leader hat, and hiring a contractor to manage the rehab efforts from start to finish. I would then simply check out the progress on a weekly basis.

All I would have to do is simply supervise the contractor, he would manage the work of the subcontractors. What I have learned in this business, is that it is very difficult to gage the experience of these contractors. It really seems like a crap shoot. Some guys are very autonomous, others you have to constantly micro-manage. Anyway, I expect to have the property occupied by September. I have also updated the photo journal.
As usual, you can find them here.

Yard Work

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One of the most annoying aspect of lawn care is weed control. Unfortunately, I had not done my due diligence and I paid dearly this past weekend. I am clear that I discovered a new species of these annoying plants.

I'll have to share a few pics of these mucous filled beast. I borrowed my neighbors reciprocating 2Hp saw and aggressively attacked them with a maniacal fervor. Heck, it made the Texas Chain Saw massacre look pretty tame.

I was in luck, because I also came across some neighborhood kids that were "actually" looking for lawns to cut. Very rare indeed. Most kids shirk this kind of stuff. They would prefer to go home and play with their Sony Playstations.

I simply broke them off with twenty spot, and had go to town on my lawn and even some weed pulling. Gotta love it.

Hiatus

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I've been out of pocket for nearly two weeks. The webserver which host my site was down for about 36hrs. Apparently, it had been compromised and it subsequently launched an attack on another server on the internet. The data center staff decided to simply unplug the box to limit the damage and their liability. They later restored the OS and never bothered to figure out what caused the compromise.

Pretty unsettling, especially since there is no plan in place to prevent it from happening again. Anyway, I later discovered that my photo journal was broken. Luckily, all of the files are intact. I simply have to get the PHP stuff working again. I hope to have it fixed by the end of the weekend. I have new pics to share of my garden and my latest road trips. So stay tuned.

Property Rehabilitation Continues

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There is no shortage of work. In fact, it can be quite intimidating at first glance. This is why it is extremely important to see continued progress. The stretch goal is to have all the repairs done by June. I wish to have it occupied shortly thereafter.

The entire rehabilitation effort has been very arduous, but quite educational. It is very rewarding to see real progress. The roof was the first large project, and was completed in roughly one week. The second major task will be plastering and painting.

I have replaced the furnace and hot water heater. Basically, the entire plumbing needed to be replaced. The water supply lines were run using c-pvc, which is not code in most states.

When pvc burns, it becomes a very noxious poisonous gas called Polyhydrochloride. So, I had all of it removed, and replaced with copper. I will need to replace some of the connections to various fixtures (laundry tub, toilet flowmaster).

Luckily, I have been introduced to much skilled (albeit unlicensed), laborers. Plumbing, plastering, and roofers. The power of networking is immense.

Once the repairs are complete, I'll re-finance the loan and pull the equity out and repeat the process on another distressed property. Instant equity position. Very nice..

Mentorship-Revisited

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Some of you may recall that I worked with a high school student. He 'shadowed' me for 10 weeks, hoping to get exposed to the engineering profession. Despite the expected academic deficiencies, his enthusiasm exceeded expectations.

He delivered a final project that was value-added for our department. On most days he was punctual, and seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience.

I also made every effort to curb the foul language. However, in my line of work, it is inevitable, that a word or two will slip. He was given a tour of our clay model design studios, Vehicle Proving Grounds, and Assembly plants

Because it is customary for interns to participate in an exit interview, I asked him to setup a short meeting with our Department Manager. Our manager was pleased with his contribution, and his ability to adapt to the new environment.

To my surprise, when he was asked if he still wanted to become an engineer. He responded, "I would like to pursue a career in Drama." I do hope that I didn't scare him away. Engineering really isn't a very glamorous profession. Nonetheless, I believe he received a valuable lesson. Perhaps he will change his mind, once he begins college ?

113th Dan Testing Success

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Although my right knee is still aching, I enjoyed every minute. The day started with a seminar led by Grandmaster Jae Joon Kim, Muk Doo Kwan, World Tang Soo Do Federation President. We started the seminar at noon, and it consisted of basics, hyungs (forms), focus drills, and sparring. The seminar ended shortly after 2pm. We were running 30minutes late.

The Dan testing began at approx 2:45p, and ran until 5pm. Luckily, there were only 6 people testing for 1st Dan. There was also one person was testing for 4th Dan.

I made an error on a Hyung Pi-dan O-Dan form, otherwise I believe the exam went pretty well. Actually, the Grandmaster was pleased with everyone. Yes, I plan to post photos and video clips to the gallery. Thanks to everyone who attended.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

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As I have matured, I have begun to realize that personal achievement can only truly be gratifying if shared with someone special. There are a precious few people in my life who I am compelled to share all things of consequence. Pops (aka Dad) is one such person. Throughout my youth, he has fostered my growth and espoused wisdom, which I did not appreciate until I became an adult. He always made time to take part in significant happenings in my life (ie HS and College graduation, Navy milestones, etc.) Clearly, I'm sure he knew that I wanted nothing more than to make him proud.

So, he again has come to witness another life event. Promotion to the rank of 1st Dan. Often I wondered, if there will be a time when I could afford him the same loyalty, understanding, wisdom and strength. How can I manifest such a vision?

A prophecy indeed.

Investment Property

Well, it's official. Closed on my first investment property. I'm very excited, but I know that the work has just begun. Fortunately, I have some great business partners, who are a bit more experienced in this undertaking. So, I don't have to make the same critical mistakes that other newbies make the first time out.

I have taken photos of the house, so that you can appreciate the improvements or the proverbial 'before and after'. I will need to replace sections of the roof, and waste water pipes leading to the city main. The photos will not capture these changes, but I will show the kitchen and basement areas that need renovation.

The city expects the buyer to bring the property up to code before renting to perspective tenants. Great stuff. I'll keep everyone posted on the developments. I expect to have the photo gallery installed in the next two weeks.

Kitchen Kemistry

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Although, I am no gourmet chef, I do enjoy cooking. I suppose it provides an outlet for creativity. Obviously, I also appreciate the idea of people devouring that which I provide. Hopefully, they are not eating, simply to please me.

I equate my kitchen experimentation to Kemistry, I purposely dropped the European spelling to pay homage to my people of Kemet. Science, mathematics, culinary, and many other wonderful creations, were derived from these dark-skinned people.

Anyway, I digress. I enjoy the idea of fabricating something new. I understand baking allows for the same level of discovery; however, I have not delved into this area. Yesterday, I made some delicious chicken soup, which was definitely as much fun to make, as it was to eat. I have to give my pops a huge shout for providing me the recipe. I have tried it with Cornish Hen and whole chicken. Good stuff.
What have you cooked lately ?

Mentoring Has It's Rewards

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Recently, I have been blessed with the opportunity of mentoring a graduating senior from a local high school. What is interesting is that I get to do this during working hours. The school requires that each student complete a senior practicum, prior to graduation. My mentee wishes to become an engineer, so he will shadow me for roughly ten weeks.

Hopefully, after spending 10-weeks with me, he will not change his mind about becoming an engineer. I suspect that I should not hide anything from him and make sure that I curtail the foul language. I will do my best.

I often wonder, how great it would have been to have been exposed to a similar program at my beloved, BTHS. Tech had many cool programs, but I don't recall ever having someone talk about a mentoring opportunity. Heck, who knows what I would have become if I had that sort of experience as a youth.

If you've not served as a mentor, I encourage you to give a try. It really is quite rewarding to make a connection with a young adult.

Motivation

Lately, it seems that enthusiasm has left me behind. I have never been accused of being lazy, but certainly my energy level has been zapped by this lousy weather.

There must be some truth to the fact the mammals tend to slow their activity during frigid temperatures.

Heck my house is still in disarray, not to mention there are several stacks of paper on my desk. Nonetheless, the demands on my time have not subsided at all.

Oh well, c'est la vie.

Home Improvement

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I figured it was time to provide an update on the humble abode. In the past three months, I installed a dishwasher, outfitted my garage with door opener, and replaced the condenser fan in the refrigerator.

Actually, I had to call Tyrone (handy-man) to assist with the garage and dishwasher. The electrical and plumbing was fairly straight forward, but I have realized that two heads are always better than one. The garage modification required cutting out some of the structural members of the roof and replacing with 2x4x8. I did not help with job. I decided that I could make better use of my time. Let's call it "Opportunity Costs".

Well, the condenser fan replacement took all of 10 minutes. Basically, the freezer worked fine, but the upper portion or food storage area was not getting cold. After taking off the panel in freezer area I realized that the fan only worked sporadically. You really did not need to know anything about HVAC, to figure out the fan must push the cold air to the upper portion. So, I spent $39.95 and replaced it. Works like a charm. I also learned that Kenmore is not a brand per-se. Essentially, it is a network of vendors that support Sears. Whirlpool, Maytag, etc. Use that in your next trivial pursuit ..

Driving to the East

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I really enjoy the winter holiday season. Typically, I drive home and spend time with family and friends. Some people bless me with birthday wishes, lots of fun. Perhaps the best part of this time of year is the drive back to the East Coast. I spend roughly 10 hrs in the car, listening to mix-tapes and CDs.

In fact, I actually managed to avoid a blizzard this year. Hopefully, the snow will stay away and the drive back will be just as refreshing.

I'm still posting - Really I am.

Have not forgotten about you. I know that some of you use my blog as an excuse to surf the net. I still have yet to post the photos from my Hoover Dam excursion. I will eventually throw the pics up, trust me. Right now, I'm enjoying BIGUPRADIO they play great roots(warm n easy classics) and more contemporary Dancehall. However, you need to have DSL/Cable modem to get a decent stream. Additionally, streamripper allows you to rip the stream as it arrives to your machine. Pretty cool stuff. Now, I've got a pretty cool juke box for all of those basement parties.

Disandat

It has been awhile since my last post. I have been innundated with work related issues and a house that is still in dissarray. I spent this past weekend setting up a wireless network for a client. I probably need to spend more time at home so that I can begin the daunting task of unpacking these boxes.

Yes, I do plan to upload the Europe vacation pics this weekend. I have not forgotten. Now that I've finally got my LAN up and running, I can begin to do more work on my website.

Last night, I went to an Ann Arbor Computer Society (AACS) meeting and listened to a talk about the recently Open Sourced software package, Logicreate. The conversation was different than others that I have previously heard, as it was developer specific.

I happen to use this package on two sites that I manage. NSBE-DAE and BCLS.

Take a look at them, if you like what you see, give me a shout. We can discuss how Logicreate could be a good fit for your business needs.

Not very thrilled to be

Not very thrilled to be heading to work on Monday. Nonetheless, I do so begrudgingly. I am sure that I will be jetlagged until at least Thursday.

I purchased a new toy, specifically for my trip to Europe. Unfortunately, I could not use it overseas. However, it works great stateside. I'm sitting @ LGA, surfing the internet and checking email with Snapdial. TechTV did a review of this product. To be fair, fellow LUG member Dave, demonstrated this cool feature of the CDMA equipped phone early last year. I may do a short demo for my NSBE-DAE tech tidbit.

Prelude to Excitement

It's been a long time but I haven't left you. I've just been very busy preparing for my trip to Europe. Tomorrow morning I'll be in Franfurt. Needless to say, I'm very amped. Coming home spending time with family and friends was great. I got a chance to do alot while on vacation.

Finally, broke down and purchased a digital camera. Got a Fuji Finepix A303 3.2mp camera.
I was able to play around with it while hanging out at home.

The weather has been great, in fact, I took the opportunity to walk across the B'klyn Bridge. For you history buffs, the bridge is one of the oldest surviving suspension bridges in the world. It was erected in 1889. It was a fairly clear day, so I figured I'd take a shot at a portion of the skyline .

Last Friday, I sailed aboard Queen of Hearts, and partied with the Port Authority Hispanic Society and The Network of Black Employees. Basically, we travelled around the Hudson River, ate good food, and danced until exhaustion. I had a great time. I plan to share more boatride pics as time permits.

Finally, I went to a free Cassandra Wilson concert in Battery Park. Hung out with a few friends. Gotta say, one of the best things about NYC are its great free concerts.

Well that 's all for now.

NSBE-XL

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Wednesday, I went to a NSBE - XL Alumni Extension chapter General Body mtg. The 'XL' stands for Extra Large. The New York AE chapter holds its mtgs at the Dean Witter 3rd FL cafeteria. Located @ 750 W. 50th St. My financial advisor, Cary Hall was giving a talk on Leadership Building. After the mtg, I met with some of the XL membership and e-board. I told people that I served as the TSIG chair for the NSBE-DAE. To my suprise, I discovered that the XL chapter does not have a TSIG. In fact, they've not had one in at least 3yrs. Chapter President-Emeritus, Nicole Brown, informed me that the NEB dropped TSIG from its structure. As such, many chapters do not fill that role. Imagine life without a TSIG chair... A sobering thought indeed..

Well, I suggested that XL and DAE have a virtual mtg via videoconference. She thought it would be a great idea. The Central NJ Alumni Extension chapter had expressed interest in doing something like that awhile ago, but it never occured. Perhaps I could try to make this happen before the end of the year.

It would be nice to link up some of my old Region 1 headz with my new Region IV peeps..

Labor Day Parade

Sorry people, the parade suffered the 2nd consecutive year of rain. It was a pretty miserable day. As such, I wasn't inspired to take any pics. Truth be told, I forgot to take my camera as I ran out of the house ;( Typically, we have approx. 3.5million parade goers, but this year, due to the weather, the total was substantially less. I believe it was roughly 1.5million. Oh well, perhaps we'll get better weather next year. Heck, the entire summer has been fairly mild.

Nonetheless, I did get to see the WLIB float complete with Wyclef Jean. I also saw 'old school' reggae artist Shaka Demus. Of course, there was alot of Calypso music, so the Trini crowd was pleased this year. In my mind, the Jamaican floats are usually better, as they have entertainers that have broader appeal. I'm sure that I'll take some heat for that statement.

Nine more days left until I depart for Europe.. The only item I need to purchase is a jacket, I had no idea that the weather was going to be so cool and damp. I'll need to cop one before I bounce outta here.

BK- Brooklyn

BK- Brooklyn !!! I'm home.. Each time I return to my beloved borough it becomes clear why I miss it so. My pops and I watched the First Annual Flex award show on our public access channel bcat. Here we watched some young females do what I call the 'squiggle' to some of Wayne Wonder and Sean Paul's hits. Ahh raw talent. I love it ..
"Shizzle me nizzle, brand new talk taking over the island hizzle. " Elephant Man..

Monday, Eastern Parkway will be alive with our annual Labor Day parade. 3.5 million people hit the streets of BK to catch a glimpse of celebs, floats, music and best of all gorge themselves with food and drink. At on time, it was one of the few occasions where you could get away with walking the streets with open containers of beer. The Puerto Rican Day parade messed it up for everyone.

Additionally, it is the largest parade in the North America. Yes, even larger than Caribana.. Hopefully, I'll get an opportunity to post some pics of this event, we'll see.

Martial Arts

Some of you are aware that I've been studying the martial arts. Actually, I practice the Korean art form - Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do (pronounced 'tong-sue-doe'). It really has become a passion of mine, and I have finally decided to dedicate webspace to some of my favorite training experiences. I hope you enjoy them. Please be on the look out for a special area within my main website dedicated to Tang Soo Do. While I'm on vacation, I'll spend time developing my main page.. Don't worry I'll continue posting stuff to my blog too.

The video clip below was taken about 1yr ago. I was testing for 2nd Gup.

Home Renewal

Ok. So I didn't get around to posting any pics this weekend. Nonetheless, I was somewhat productive. All of my junk is now out of the old condo. I removed my old garage door opener, and a few boxes from the basement. My next house project is installing the garage door opener at my new place. Yeah, 'Tool Time' for real ..

I made a few changes to the blog. Now people don't have to send their comments via email, you can simply put your comments on the blog itself..

Now for the pics.. The house is still in disarray, so don't get your hopes up. Some of the pics came out very dark so I won't post all of them.

living room
bedroom
dining room

Blackout - Revisited

100% recovery from blackout. My cablemodem has a good data signal, as Comcast has got their routers up. If the power outage had lasted for two more days, I would have been in serious trouble. I now understand why some people purchase 1500W generators for their homes. Next week, I'll be back in BK enjoying a much needed vacation. I have nearly everything needed for my trip to Europe. Must purchase a digital camera. Otherwise, I'm good to go.

For those who are interested, I'm going to take a few pics of the house and post them before the end of the weekend.
I have been a busy beaver these past few days. I hired some carpet installers, and they installed Burba in all three bedrooms and the stair treads leading to the basement. I installed a 240VAC receptacle for my electric dryer. I did a bit of creative electrical work on a very old power distribution box. Gotta send props out to my buddy Jack for dropping that 'basic' electrical knowledge on me, when I was a youth.

If any of you can offer any home interior decoratoration ideas, I'm all ears.

I should have my LAN up this weekend too. I've grown tired of banging on these tiny laptop keys. I want to use a REAL OS again.

BlackOut

Out like a light or should I say no lights for two nights.. Talk about a 'hot sleep', now that power has been restored to the Northeast and Midwest, I can continue to work on my house. Everything isn't quite back to normal, as Comcast has not yet got all of their equipment running. So, I write this scribe from a local 'Rat Shack' err I mean Radio. I always knew that those stores were good for something. I spent Friday, roaming the streets in my truck, since it was the only place that had AC. Many people were waiting for gas in ridiculously long lines. It reminded me of MadMax, Armeggedon..
Luckily, I topped off my tank before the blackout.

Many people have asked me for pics of the house, I'll get on this ASAP.
More later..

Moving Again

Well, I'm approx 85% moved in now. I've just got alot of little stuff to get from the old condo. The new house is nearly cleaned to my satisfaction. I wasn't too happy about the rust that accumulated in the hot water pipes, but I suppose that this is common in older homes that have not been occupied. First order of business is to get my LAN setup again. Right now I'm forced to communicate w/a goshdarn XP laptop. After two failed attempts to get Comcast to install my cable, I finally connected w/the service guys on Monday. Once I began talking with one of the serviceman, I discovered that he was a Linux newbie.

Got a pseudo-free cable modem out of the deal. I'm going to hook the brother up a couple of LUGs in the area.
I hope to have my LAN setup before the weekend is out. Additionally, I will also attempt complete the revamping of my website. Stay tuned..

Home Ownership

After revealing the news of my first home purchase, people have automatically assumed that I will be living in MI forever. Wrong answer.
My intent was to lower my taxable income. Nothing more, nothing less. I'll be a NYer until I die. Believe that.

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