A few questions answered

Ok time to have a little fun. Saw this posted in my feed, decided to tackle it. Read on and laugh along. Feedback appreciated.

1. What is your favourite book?

The Crow by James O’Barr. It’s a graphic novel but it unabashedly shows many truths we simply take for granted, and how precious life is.

2. What are your goals? For the year? For your life?

My first goal is to start swimming on a regular basis and strengthen my body. Three spinal surgeries in 4 years is kinda rough. My life goals are to get back to college and earn my degree in civil engineering and my P.E. (Professional Engineer license), and be financially secure so my wife and kids never have to worry.

3. Are you a writer? If so, tell me about your work. 

I like to write and go through phases. I do write technical articles and jobsite reports for my company’s monthly newsletter.

4. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Always wanted to visit New Zealand.

5. What was the last movie you saw in the theatre and was it worthwhile?

Ill be honest I don’t remember.

6. I’m curious, are there any books that you’ve tried to read and simply couldn’t finish? This is a no judgement zone.

Some “bestselling thriller” I picked up in the airport once. Got about 1/3 of the way through it and ended up leaving it on the plane for some unsuspecting person to pick up and try to read.

7. Are you currently working on a new book/project right now? If it’s secret, you don’t have to tell me about it. If so, however, I hope it’s going well.

Not at the moment. I really want to get back to writing music.

8. If you could live in any of your favourite books, which one would you choose?

The Tom Clancy “Jack Ryan Series” (think Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, etc..)

9. Are there any book-to-movie adaptations that you think are just incredible? That you absolutely hated?

Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson did a phenomenal job. The Sum of All Fears was a big disappointment….had very little to do with the book, which I thought was way more exciting.

10. What do you look for in a book that you want to read? What’s the first thing to capture your attention?

The inset plot teaser. Needs human focus without getting lost on miniscule details like Charles Dickens.

11. If you’re an author, what do you do when you first get an idea for a book?

My morning coffee is my inspiration. Sometimes a long drive.

12. How do you feel about different genres? Romance? YA? Sci-Fi? Poetry? Do you have any favorites? Any least-favourites?

Romance never did it for me. Some young adult novels are written really well, others sound like a mishmash of high school gossip with zero direction and a massive “cheese factor”. I definitely enjoy sci-fi, and also historical fiction.

13. If you could meet any writer in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?

Tom Clancy, Timothy Zahn, James O’Barr, and Ernest Hemmingway.

14. Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

I like both.

15. Are there any characters that everyone loves that you can’t stand? Or vice versa?

Any character(s) that people take too seriously. Twilight, 50 Shades, etc.

16. What do you like to do besides reading/writing?

Work on cars, spend time with the kids, work on skis and snowboards at the shop, cooking, public speaking / presentations, target shooting, hunting, shooting pool.

17. If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

My love for my family.

18. What is your favourite guilty pleasure book?

Star Wars: Dark Empire

19. Do you have a reading goal set for this year?

Nope. Just to keep reading.

20. Tell me anything about yourself that I haven’t asked. Random fact. Weird human trick. Whatever.

I can roll my stomach like ocean waves.

Stay Caffinated.

Someone pissed in my cheerios

So I got pretty worked up today. Up until today, I’ve watched the political polarization of comment feeds and generally have kept to myself.  Occasionally I’ve jumped in; other times I’ve pulled a “I’m just here for the comments” with a tub of popcorn. But here I sit, realizing nearly every comment section of any article devolves into a political version of Spy vs Spy from the MAD Magazine days. Only difference is, this is not really funny anymore. There have been some studies done which illustrate the political divide in this country is at its most extreme in a very long time. That does not mean I have to be OK with it.

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I have a few opinions on why this is happening. For one, everyone has a mouthpiece now. It’s called the internet. Whereas opinions were restricted (and I use that term very loosely) to:

– Letters to the Editor
– Community Activists with a megaphone and a soap box
– News personalities and writers
– Callers on CNN
– Local community gossip

Now, everyone can put their opinion on blast. This is one of the sharpest double edged swords I’ve encountered. We all have a voice, yet I find myself cringing at some of the voices screaming to be heard. It’s really aggrivating that people will openly threaten to kill, beat, rape, and slander each other over an opinion. Granted, we can laugh it off and say “haha, keyboard warrior”, post a meme or some ridiculous picture to accompany it. But I think there’s a serious problem. Take the constantly moving and evolving firearms discussion in this country. People on both sides are perfectly ok saying things like “fuck them, they deserve to die”. Now hold on a second. It’s my understanding that people voicing their desire for more gun control would be seeking a non violent solution to what they consider a problem in America. It is also my understanding that the people who own firearms for self defense are not wanting to be on the offensive. I am going to pick both sides of the argument apart, and at the end, I will tell you my stance on guns in America.

Remember, I will take a brief most extreme view on both sides and argue their points with paraphrased comments I’ve seen on places like Facebook, news feeds, etc. Trust me, what I say here, you will be able to find. I’m not discussing facts. I hate that I even have to write this stupid disclaimer. Onward.

—-The argument for more Gun Control and/or banning of guns

Often the plea is heard for more gun control. But it seems like no one is doing anything about it. All these people populating the streets with more and more instruments of death. Kids are dying in schools and on the streets. What for? So the gun industry can continue to make money hand and foot over the American Publics’ fear of everything? Because every home needs an assault rifle? Or is it a bunch of men so insecure in their masculinity that they need a big bad automatic rifle with the latest military hardware to compensate for their small manhood? Who knows. One thing is for sure, of you take guns off the streets, crime will go down and school shootings won’t happen. Guns are for the police and the military. An average citizen has no need for a gun. What if their child gets a hold of a gun carelessly left out and shoots themselves or a sibling or a parent? Who is to blame then? The politicians need to man up and write laws to prevent these things from happening at any cost. There are many other things a person can do to defend themselves such as call 911, run away from the attacker, fake a medical condition, or find a way to defuse the situation. And if you see someone walking around with a gun, you should call the cops.

—-The argument against more Gun Control or banning of guns

The United States was founded on rejecting oppression and tyranny, giving the people the power to rise up and defend themselves. We are guaranteed the right to protect ourselves with firearms. Illegal guns on the streets does not mean the government now has the right to take away the guns of law abiding citizens. This is a constitutional right guaranteed by the supreme court. More guns lawfully owned means less crime on the streets. So many people depend on hunting to feed their families as well. And the fantasy that AR-15 rifles are these fully automatic death machines is completely false. They are semi-automatic which means you pull the trigger once and one bullet comes out, not thirty. If you don’t like guns, don’t buy one! Instead of blaming the gun for these school shootings or mass murders, blame the person and blame the parents for not getting the shooter the mental health treatment they need.

Now that I’m done with those, here’s my opinion, and people on both sides will probably say I’m pissing in their cheerios for this:

I am a gun owner. I have had my LCF since 2006 (in my state that stands for License to Carry Firearms, renewable every 5 years with the County Sheriff). I also carry concealed every day. I have not shot a single person in my life and I do not plan on it. I teach my children firearm safety. I have taken some courses on firearm safety. I have a bolt action hunting rifle, I am building an AR 15, have a pump action shotgun and a semi-automatic pistol.

I do not support ‘open carry’ demonstrations as I feel it is sending the wrong message. In my state we absolutely have the right to open carry, especially since hunting is a big part of life here, but unless I am out hunting deer (whose meat we all eat) I have no reason to have my rifle strapped to my shoulder. I see no reason to ban ammunition magazines that are portrayed as ‘high capacity’. A 30 round magazine is standard on an AR-15 platform rifle chambered in .223/5.56.

Background checks are a must, and here in my state when you walk into any store, they perform a NICS check on you every time you purchase a gun. The only exception is private transfer of a ‘long gun’ which means rifles and shotguns. You cannot privately purchase a pistol without going through a FFL (federal firearms licensed dealer).

I think firearm safety should be taught to people of all ages, and it should be a mandatory requirement to obtain your carry permit. I see no problem with that.
The mental health treatments available in this country range from wonderful to appalling. More needs to be done, and it starts at home. If you’re ignoring mental illness in your home, you are absolutely making it worse. Denial is almost as bad as the illness itself. And please, stop comparing the United States to other countries. It is an apples to oranges comparison. Our population is many times that of other countries, as well as our geographical area, and our entire judicial system.

I see no issue with a firearms database if done correctly. Before you scream “They”re gonna take our guns away!” just listen to me. From a law enforcement perspective, it would be so much faster if you could trace a serial number in the event a crime is committed. Yes, felons often file off the serial numbers. But they should be traceable. If a federal database is not agreeable, then all the states need to be on the same page. Quite frankly, if a ‘gun grab’ were to happen, this country would have a full blown revolution on its hands.

I am tired of people who want to restrict or ban guns threatening gun owners. You are, in effect, preaching a very violent solution to a non-violent cause. Get over yourselves. I am proud of the way I’ve raised my family and I have shown great restraint in potentially violent situations. In fact, carrying my gun has shown I have more restraint, full well knowing my pistol is my absolute last resort, and I’d rather de-escalate a situation and be able to walk away peacefully. If you want to scream in my face simply because you do not agree with me is a foolish way to get your opinion across. I’m not shoving my beliefs down your throat until you catipulate.

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We as Americans really need to be united again. We are so politically divided. And not just on the issue of guns. I’ve written long enough for this post. Next up will be the education system, marriage, our national debt, and law enforcement. Stay Caffinated.

So I met a blogger I didn’t know IRL

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Obligatory computer and coffee photo

I’m sure some of you have used one of the ubiquitous “rummage sale” sites on Facebook. As a papa of three, you bet your ass I do. Funny thing is, I have pretty decent luck selling on said pages locally here. I’d say I’ve got a 75% success rate, even. So The Wife found a screaming deal on a toy that a friend of ours was desperately searching for to give to her eager daughter. Turns out its from a blogger that The Wife follows for in-store deals all the time. Somehow I get roped into doing the meet. So I head down, and meet up with her. Now, most meets for rummage sales are a 10 minute at most transaction. “Here’s your widget. Here’s your money, $15 right? Yep! Great, Nancy is gonna love this! Thanks so much! Take care!” Well we start talking a bit and suddenly an hour has passed. She could really talk! And it was cool. We had very similar views on how businesses in our area do not take advantage of blogging and social media. What amazed me was how in-tune she really was to the Marketing industry as a whole. Most people in our area unfortunately have blinders on and only focused on immediate, short term needs. They often look at you in wonder and amazement if you have a grip on things like socioeconomic trends, world news, and common sense solutions to every day problems. Yet here’s this blogger on a rummage meet with me and she’s got it together. No wonder her and The Wife chat it up all the time. I think it’s great!

The depressing thing about our area is it’s almost as if people have no interest in the impact things have on their lives until it happens, and then all they do is complain. After they complain, they crawl back in their Hobbit Hole and avoid any excitement or involvement in life beyond The Shire. The trickle-down effect has began to affect their children. I see it, and I worry. Their kids are not getting enriched at home. Instead, they are spoon fed entertainment news as if it’s actually important to their lives. They can tell you Kim Kardashian went commando the other day and the paparazzi caught it, but they can’t tell you where Syria is on a map, or that though gas prices are low, the US oil industry has taken a $35 billion hit, or even that we very well may be paying tax on our internet service soon and the FCC might now have their paws into how we view the internet soon due to ‘net neutrality’. The current school system is partly to blame, but all education starts at home. I would like to think The Wife and I continue to enrich and expose our children to things larger than the latest cat video on YouTube. My son was so excited to have me do Career Day recently at his school, you would think it was his Birthday. I gotta say, it was humbling that he was so proud to have me come in. The teachers were thrilled that these kids could talk to someone who worked their way into a 11 year career and speak to someone who has learned so much and continues to learn more about Civil Engineering.

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Small group of the kids that attended career day, holding onto some anchor parts and construction gear.

All is not lost, and I hope these bright young minds eschew the blinders that many wear and look for something greater. This all started for me when I took a chance with a job offer over 11 years ago with a company I knew nothing about but promised to teach me everything. And I, above everything, have a son who takes pride in his dad and what he does.

Asking the right questions. The BANE of my existence.

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Late St. Paddy’s Day morning to ya. Mushy is sick, so she’s home with me while I’m working. The Wife took Squishy with her to go help a friend with her crafting business, and Stinky begrudgingly went to school. It was his birthday this weekend, so I think he partied too hard and forgot that Monday, even though it’s St. Paddy’s and we’re a good chunk Irish ethnically, he still has to go suffer through standardized testing for the week. Ugh. 

So as I’m plugged back into work for the week. I had a spirited email exchange with a client. My work is very technically involved, being in the Civil Engineering & Construction industry. It’s taken four emails back and forth now to find out what the guy is really after. In Heavy Civil Construction, there is a LOT of specifications, requirements, design changes, et cetera, especially when it deals with load bearing elements installed underground, where you can’t actually see what’s going on. Fun times, right? So it’s very important for someone to ask the right question if they need a specific answer. Here’s how it started:

I put together a preliminary engineered design for the client, based on what he sent me. There’s two different ways we can make the materials resistant to corrosion. One way is more expensive, takes longer, and actually doesn’t work too well with the material, so we generally don’t recommend it, but in the case of this project, it was required by the Engineer of Record. The second method is the same coating applied differently and actually is less expensive, shorter lead-time, and works much better. I offered both. Fast forward three months, and the job is back. In the past three months, we attempted (on another project) to use the Pain In The @$$ way of coating, and we lost a lot of money on the project, and it cost the client extra to get it to work. We’ve basically swore off of using that method. I explained this to my current client. A week later, he re-forwards some of my comments on the first part of the project, but not asking me exactly what he was after. My comments enveloped five separate parts of the project. I incorrectly assumed he was once again talking about the coating. Wrong. So my first email back to him, although correct, was not what he was after. So I then moved on to the actual engineered loads on the project. This time that was only part of what he wanted. Next I moved on to how to actually drill into the ground with the right bit, and reissued an estimate. Now my phone rang while attending to the puking child. Can’t wait to see where I’m wrong now, haha.

This illustrates a failure on both our ends. I failed to ask him exactly what he was after, and he failed to tell me what he wanted. Reflecting back on this, it’s fairly obvious that this happens in all aspects of life. Human beings assume too much. I see it in my relationship with The Wife, and with the kids sometimes, too. Problem with kids is, they will think something in their heads, and never actually say it. Wait…adults do that, too! Teaching the kids to speak their minds is a difficult task, especially when they encounter situations in school where they may be bullied for speaking their minds, or end up being victimized for voicing their opinions. If the child is sensitive, they end up shutting down out of fear of rejection or admonishment. I see it with Stinky a lot. He’s not the popular kid. He’s a little over weight, wears glasses, and has red hair. Plus he doesn’t play multi-player online first person shooters or gory games that other 4th graders play. Just not happening in my house. At 9 and 10 yrs old they should still be fascinated with pokemon, super mario, and fun stuff, not controlling a character armed with an M243 SAW, grenades, Ka-Bar, and a penchant for killing terrorists. With how cruel kids are these days, that’s textbook for getting picked on. So unfortunately this leads to confrontations at home. He’ll think about something, assume he’s told us, and then last minute he’ll ask about something, and it’ll be the first time we’ve heard about it. Even though we are very active parents, we ask him how his day was, anything new, check his folders from school, and routinely follow school communications. Stuff falls through the cracks. And he gets very upset at the fact that 830 PM the day before he is suddenly unprepared for whatever is coming the next day. I am trying my darndest to get him to realize that he needs to be better organized and prepared and learn to actually take notes in class. His homework assignment book? Less than a sentence blurb on what he’s supposed to do that evening. This has led to battles over what he’s actually supposed to do for his assignment. Yikes. 

To put a bow on this surface scratch, it is crucial in communication to ask the right questions. And if you’re going to quote someone and throw the quote back in someone’s face, be ready to explain why you did and what you’re actually after. Assume makes an ASS out of U and ME. 

 

I’m chalking this up to a case of the Mondays. Anyone got some Bailey’s for my coffee?

Why does it matter so much?

So there’s this line of thought I’ve been struggling with for some time. I’ve seen a lot of protests against marriage equality. People screaming that it’s against the Bible. That if the couple is not Man and Woman, that they’re going to burn in Hell and our society is going down the tubes. That horrible things are going to happen. I keep focusing on other factors. Is it really that important to you that you feel the need to spew hatred towards someone you don’t know at all, all the while professing yourself to be a “good Christian or Muslim or whatever”? Seriously? Plus these people routinely seem to ignore the whole seperation of church and state thing. They want their religious freedom, yet want to impose their will on those who do not have the same faith! Look folks, no one is going to put a proverbial gun to your church’s head and force you to marry someone that isn’t a part of your faith organization. There are plenty of places that a same gender couple can get married when there is no discriminatory law in place barring them from such. They aren’t going to “turn your children gay”. That’s as ridiculous as saying if you were to let a dog influence your child’s life, the kid is going to start walking on all fours, humping your neighbors leg, and biting the postman. They are professing their love for one another and making a lifelong commitment to eachother, not invading the psyche of others. Let them deal with all the blessings and pitfalls of marriage the way any of us do. And I’m saddened that it’s still thrown around as “gay marriage”. Please. It should just be marriage. And in defense of churches, if their religion does not allow for same sex marriage, then they should not be forced to practice it. To repeat myself, there are many other options. Those spewing hatred need to get over themselves and start practicing things like “love thy neighbor”. It is not up to you to cast judgement. The big guy upstairs will do that. Leave it to him and focus your energy elsewhere. And from what I’ve seen, ‘traditional’ marriage isn’t exactly working as well as we would all like these days either. Maybe instead of yelling at the LGBT community, you should check your own house and fix the failings at home. Stop hating a way of life just because it’s different and you don’t agree writh it. I seriously doubt you’re earning God’s grace by doing this. And hey, if I am wrong in assuming God loves ALL his children, well that’s a conversation that is between Him and I.

Sometimes what you learn returns to something way bigger than yourself

Whoops. I failed. Fell into the usual trap of starting something and not doing anything with it. How typical. Anyway. Things have been busy on the homefront. Quick recap before I settle into my morning cup. (It’s 205am EST so yes it is morning).

We moved to a bigger house. Right up the street too! Mushy and Squishy really needed their own seperate rooms, and the landlord refused to fix our driveway, which had been collapsing since the one two punches of Irene and Sandy. Much better place. And I get to keep my awesome neighborhood.
Speaking if neighborhood, I’ve been sharing my morning cups with, lets call him Frederico. Great guy, almost like a father figure but treats me as a peer. And my friend The Farmer. Same age, our kids go to school, and quite frankly we both need the morning cups together. Story for another time.
I had round 3 of back surgery a few weeks ago. You’d think with my downtime I’d write. I’ll take my spankings now. Healing pretty good. Fingers crossed.

Onto the meat and potatoes.

I dated a young woman about two years before I met my wife. She was exotic. From a place called Crimea. Yeah, suddenly the USA is now familiar with that place. Everyone says hey isn’t that some place in the Ukraine. Well…sort of. See when I was dating her, I got an amazing education about the Autonomous Province of Crimea. See, yes it falls under the jurisdiction of the Ukraine, but almost due to a technicality, really. Khrushchev ‘gifted’ Crimea to the Ukrainian SFSR during the bad old days of the cold war, 1954 to be exact. And when the USSR fell, Crimea by default ended up within Ukrainian borders. Yet it has always functioned on it’s own. Similar (but not the exact same) as Puerto Rico to the US. But Crimea has way more in common with Russia for one, and secondly Crimea should be independent. I learned this from my ex, lets call her Natasha. I love the Black Widow, nerd moment haha. Natasha was very passionate (and still is) about her homeland situation. Crimea is a vacation hotspot on the Black Sea, and the area is gorgeous. Definitely on my to do list. The majority identify themselves more with Russians than Ukrainians, and there is a Tatar population there as well (10-15% ish). Ukrainians are actually a minority there, like the Tatar. So what does this boil down to? Suddenly the media is once agsin accusing Putin of meddling in affairs and he is ‘invading’. He actually is not. Ukraine is in upheaval and he is actually protecting his interests in Crimea. Protecting the people and his military assets there. He has an agreement with Crimea (and the Ukraine for that matter). But, like a spoiled child, Ukraine is crying that their sovereignty is being compromised. They have enough egg on their face right now and want the world to believe that Russia is bullying them. The media and our US government has their heads so far up their rear ends they all think they understand what is going on there. Honestly it reminds me of the velvet revolutions in the Balkans, but without genocide. Go ahead, go read Wikipedia and try to understand all the players in Yugoslavia and Kosovo. Confused yet? Good. You freakin should be. There is so much complexity to Crimea that the layperson will never understand. I don’t pretend to suddenly be an expert because I dated a Crimean woman and remain friends with her. But I don’t have such a narrow view. The UN needs to stay out of this. The US needs to stay out of this. Venezuela is gong through a MUCH worse period of strife. Crimea will work itself out.
So, why did I write all if this? Because I learned two things.
One, just as the USA is a pretty complex place, so are many other states around the world. Don’t take it for granted because a place “appears small on the map”.
Two, never take any education you receive for granted. I can honestly say at the time when I was dating Natasha and learning about her heritage, I never thought I needed that knowledge beyond our relationship. Suddenly, a decade later, I do.