Jan 25

I spent the entire flight to Amarillo thinking about what I would say if we were offered the chance to share memories of Nanny at her funeral today. That wasn’t the case and so I am writing them here, which to be honest is much better because I don’t think I could have made it through at the service.

I first began thinking of the many wonderful memories I have of her: the funny ones, the self deprecating ones, the light hearted ones. I figured we would all be in the mood for a break from the somber emotion. And that is just how my mind works, I deal with situations by trying to bring humor.

Then I realized that we had been lucky enough (and my sister had the genius idea) to actually convey those types of memories, and many more, directly to Nanny in a memory book we gave her at Christmas. My sister said she thought “what do you give someone for their last Christmas?” And that was the best answer ever. We had a bit of prep time, which I am so thankful for, because many don’t get it.

So instead my mind wondered to the day of her death. I remember that night playing with my son Dutch before his bedtime, and discovering a new game which made him laugh hysterically. His laughter gave me such joy on a day when I was hurting for my entire family. My brother, who had been in town and helped my mother deal with more things than a younger brother should ever have to. My mother and aunt who had to know that their mother was dead, and then try to deal with all the hardships a death brings even outside of the emotional ones. My sister who tried to race to Nanny’s side as I desperately told her over the phone “please tell her Janet, Jeremiah, and Dutch love her if you see her before she passes”. My other sister who sat in the room with my aunt and helped her understand that she had done everything possible and correctly in Nanny’s final moments. And most of all my grandfather who was recovering from a difficult surgery and having to learn that his wife of 66 years was no longer with him.

And it was then I realized that this moment, Dutch’s laughter and my joy, were only possible because of my Nanny. Because of her love, dedication, and sacrifice in raising a family. And not just that moment, but every moment of every one of her descendant’s lives. I guess my grandad helped a little too (see, can’t help but joke when things get serious).

And that gave me comfort, and even a little pride. I am proud to be a part of her great legacy. And I am comforted to know that she will not be forgotten, because every moment we live is a testament and honor to her memory.

Dec 23

So lately my social media platforms (I’m guessing yours too) have been dominated by debate around guns sparked by the events in Sandy Hook.  It has broken down primarily to two sides, I’ll call them pro-gun and pro-control.  People have brought up other factors, but I’m not addressing that for a moment. — note: I’m just going to use the word ‘gun’, I’m not going to try and use specific names, because current gun classification is a horrible mess and a part of why previous gun control has been equal parts hated and ineffectual.

My Truth is Better Than Yours

(aka: I have more anecdotes than you do, na-na-boo-boo)

On the pro-gun side, I am seeing people refusing to even admit that a fork is less dangerous than a gun, refusing to admit that gun control doesn’t have to mean repealing the 2nd amendment.  All the while being as fast as possible to post any positive news around guns or against regulation they can find (this one time a citizen stopped a killer because he had a gun, this other time someone stole a gun and used it even when they couldn’t get one legally).

On the pro-control side, I am seeing people refusing to accept that there are times when guns were helpful, refusing to acknowledge that mass violence at the hands of guns is rare, and being quick to counter-post things that show guns are bad (there already was an armed guard at a mass shooting and it didn’t help, this one country with less people and less guns has less gun murders).

I’m not saying either side has a better leg to stand on, what I’m pointing out is that at this point the discourse has devolved to people ignoring or deluding themselves about facts.  FACTS.  Everyone in America knows that a gun is more deadly than a fork.  Just like everyone knows that, all other things being equal, a gun that fires 30 rounds without reloading is more deadly than a gun which fires only 6, or 8, or 10. Everyone in America knows that guns in the right hands have been used for positive and worthwhile things. Just like it shows very plainly through statistics that mass killings are not a leading cause of death by guns.

Again, these are just facts, they don’t fully define a problem or a solution.  But both sides are so entrenched, that they feel admitting a fact may belie their principle, and therefore their position.  This is an impossible way to solve a problem.

Your Solution is Worse Than My Problem

(aka: My logic sucks so hard I’m being logically fellatious)

People are being almost as quick to offer problems as they are solutions.  On the problem front I’ve seen “We can’t talk about it now, too soon”, “Guns kill people”, “People kill people”, “More kids die from drowning, lets regulate pools”, “Mental Illness is the real problem”, “Bad parenting is the real problem”, “Video games… The Media… The Politicians… The NRA… Your Mom… is the real problem”.  On the solution front I’ve seen “No more guns, none at all, it works in other places.”  ”Free and mandatory mental evaluations and help for everyone.”  ”Bring back AR bans.” “Put more people with guns in more places.”

Unfortunately a lot of the problems, solutions, and arguments being proposed use faulty logic to support a biased position.  It almost seems that having “my side’s solution” or “my side’s problem” being chosen has become more important than actually preventing deaths.  They are riddled with red herrings — ‘other things are more deadly than guns, so why even talk about guns?’, ‘now it is a time for mourning, gun control talks are inappropriate’.  Diverting attention away from guns doesn’t help us move forward, and just because society has other problems, the level of gun control (up or down) is still allowed to be a problem.  Or slippery slopes — ‘Once we start regulating guns, next Obama will overturn 2nd amendment.’  ’If we put an armed guard at a school, we’ll soon be in a police state.’  Violent weapons are a spectrum (from a fork all the way up to a nuke), and pretending that placing a line in that spectrum is impossible, is ignoring the fact that we already have limits all over it.  Regulations and enforcement is also a spectrum, so pretending that there can’t be a balance is ignoring the fact that our government is constantly adjusting those balances in all areas.

My Counter-Proposal Nicely Augments Yours

(aka: So LET’S FIX IT)

Everyone knows this is a complex issue and that any potential solution will be difficult to theorize, let alone implement.  You can’t snap your fingers and get rid of all guns from bad people.  We can’t always anticipate the anomalous mentally ill person who will become massively violent.  You can’t give everyone a gun and hope it works out better.

These gun debates, and what is happening in Congress today mirror each other on a level that I guess should be expected.  After all, we are the ones who elected those people in the first place.  Everyone is more afraid that giving an inch means losing a personal principle, than they are afraid of never fixing a problem.  So we have elected people that will add one more to our side, because that other side is entrenched and crazy.  Look at the fiscal cliff debates now.  There is almost a consensus across the whole nation, and even within Congress itself, that the tax cuts should be extended for lower and middle class Americans.  And yet, they can’t get that passed, because they will lose that as leverage to hold another principle hostage.

We have come to the point in public discourse (and as a result, in political discourse) where the end goal isn’t a better outcome, it is a mark in “my groups’ win column”.

Maybe if we start having more positive, beneficial discussions with our friends, trusting no side of an issue comes purely from malice, trusting that we actually are all the same group with similar goals, and trusting that understanding and compromise doesn’t mean losing — then we can move from digging trenches against each other, and actually begin plowing ahead together.

Feb 14

Another posed photo. This is a lovely picture of us with our friends Jimmy and Rosa. The only problem is, it raises many more questions than answers.

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  1. why did we decide to play wife swap for the camera?
  2. why am I kind of throwing my chest forward like “come at me bro”?
  3. why is Jimmy double fisting shiner? More importantly, why am I not?
  4. what does my shirt mean? Seriously, someone who knows French, please tell me, I forgot.
Feb 14
Is this normal?
icon1 meezy | icon2 facts | icon4 02 14th, 2012| icon32 Comments »

I often feel that I don’t have a normal set of feelings (see what I did there?). So here comes some realness that may not be popular opinion. First a few examples.

  • I don’t miss people when separated. I don’t know if it is lack of memory, or selfishness, or complacency in adapting to surroundings – but if I don’t pay attention, I go a long time without thinking about people if they aren’t in front of my face. One time at college my sister was like “it’s been 2 months, call mom or we’ll both kill you.”
  • I rarely get over one standard deviation from the center of my emotional bell curve. Happy things make me a little happy, sad things make me a little sad, angry things make me a little angry. Mostly I’m just “go with the flow” mellow. (alcohol voids this statement)

So, having set the stage, my latest pondering is how I’ll feel toward my kid. Like I’ve always thought “I could never adopt a kid, because I may just be ‘meh’ toward them”. So on a lesser scale that translates to a biological child. When I bring this up, or hear people talking about kids, everyone exclaims “most love! feelings! emotions! overload! hardest! best! worth it! awesome! greatest experience!”. And all I can think is settle down with the superlatives susan – either everyone is bullshitting me, or my standard deviations are about to change. Because based on the way I describe my emotions, that sounds like hyperbole I would never reach.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say I think I won’t love my child. I’m just skeptical that it is going to be as crazy as people make it out to be. I suppose I’ll find out soon, and report back.

Feb 10

So my wife always gives me a hard time because I don’t like taking photos. They annoy me for many reasons, but here are my two main reasons against posed photos.

  1. my fake smile comes across as “amused at best”, and if I try to show teeth it looks frightening
  2. the concept of posing is essentially “quick, everyone stop actually doing the thing we enjoy enough to capture for posterity, and stand here for a minute looking awkward”

Granted, not everyone looks awkward. Some people pose really well, but I am not one of those people. So in an effort to prove my point, I am going to start going over some of my photos.

So for this first time, I’d like to do a comparison between a posed photo, and a “real action shot” (gotta think of a less douchey name for the 2nd type).

First the posed photo. Notice the “I’m happy???” (read by Ron Burgundy) smile I’m rocking? That’s actually one of my best, FYI.
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Let’s examine the scene. I’m sitting there thinking “this is nice to be posing with my lovely wife in front of this football. You know what would be even nicer? Playing fucking football with it.” I don’t remember why we are doing this, or really anything about what was happening. I think it was Christmas.

Now, let’s compare a natural photo. Who is in this photo? Except for it being in the context of my blog, people who weren’t there probably wouldn’t know it is me. That isn’t a problem, it is a conversation starter. If they do know it is me, they must be stalking me and know that is shirt #2 of my 3 nice shirts, and therefore recognize me and know that it is a Monday, Thursday, or Saturday.

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The scene in this photo brings back a vivid memory (even though I was drunk), and a story for me to tell when people ask “who is that, and why did his wife take a picture of him praying on a dirty garage floor.” New years. Amarillo. Flip cup. Table full of beer just got thrown over on purpose. I laughed so hard I almost pissed myself.

So clearly, you can see that the live action shot is the winner. I’ll present further evidence for my case next time.

Feb 10

So I forgot to post this after I wrote it.  Pretend like you are reading it two weeks ago.

Given the Broncos vs. Patriots playoff football game that just happened, I figured now was the right time for my third installment of ‘Congratulations, You suck!’

You probably think this is about Tim Tebow.  Surprisingly, it kind of isn’t, and here is why.  When it comes to skill, Tim Tebow isn’t as good at football as some other people, but I also never hear him claim that he is.  All I see is him working hard to get better (plus a little jesus-y showboating).

Nope, this installment is about media and belief in a mystical higher power.

Example one:

Congratulations you suck, but because you attribute your partial success to a higher power, you will be the news story.  Do you know the main reason a decent portion of the public hates Tebow?  Because reporters won’t shut the fuck up about him.  If they didn’t bring up the ‘Jesus’ angle all of the time, you would hear his name exactly as often as you hear Colt McCoy’s.  Sure, Tebow is a nice guy, he works hard, is charitable, etc.  Do you know where that would make a great story?  Not on Sportscenter.  Just like people watching Oxygen or the Jesus Channel expect their shows to not have main characters who are good at football but hate women/religion, I expect my sports channels to not have main characters who suck at their sport but are great at Christianity.

Example 2

Congratulations you suck, but I want to believe god helps you, so you are probably awesome. It is pretty easy for me to tangent this into a generic religion argument, but I’ll try and stay more focused.  When the Broncos started winning, my social network feeds turned into angel farts and Jesus kisses for Tebow.  Those people are the reason the reporters behaved like they did — pandering to the audience.  However, when they lost, and badly, it turned into excuses and “Leave Tebow alone, he’s better than you”.  Yep, he is better than me, in a lot of ways — especially ways Christians value, like worshiping god or attributing success to a higher power.  He’s also better than me at football.  But, I’m not in the NFL, I develop software (probably better than him).  Also, you know who he isn’t better than?  Tom Brady.  That game was a classic example of how, no matter how hard you want to believe, quality actions will consistently beat prayers and wishes.  Or in simpler terms “Wish in one hand and shit in the other, see which fills up first.”

So, just to wrap up, here are some facts.  Tim Tebow is a low quality NFL quarterback.  Attributing things to a higher power when they go right, but making excuses when they go wrong is hypocritical.  Thinking a higher power exists that created the whole universe (but also gives a shit about a football game) is annoying.

Jan 9

Yeah, I haven’t written anything in a long time.  Either I didn’t have anything to say, or I was too busy saying it to people in person.  Not sure, but I guess now I feel like writing stuff down again.

The only thing more exciting than this post is the level of excitement that I am sure is bursting from all of your respective (hearts|faces|loins) after hearing the news that you can once again revel in the gloriousness of my brain’s speech bubbles via the internet.

So get ready for awesomeness.  Or mediocrity.  Or whatever.

Feb 17

adjective: type of person who thinks he has the sole right to moral authority, given by his diety(ies)

usage: Good thing I am a religious person and <Zeus/God/FSM/Buddha/Pope> told me not to murder.  Otherwise, I would just be killing people all the time.  I almost just killed you right then, you don’t even realize.

Jan 20

At work we had a problem with randomly getting the org.hibernate.AssertionFailure: collection was not processed by flush exception thrown in various places.  After searching for a solution we finally found a blog that mentioned a similar issue and a working solution.

Our base model class had an overridden equals() method and hashCode() method that was causing the problem.  If you have overridden a method used for comparison in collections, such as equals(), hashCode(), compare(), be wary that your method is not causing hibernate to instantiate lazily loaded objects during flush.  We had a complex equals() method that used reflection to compare values within a model.  This is bad practice and the equals method should be overridden to check attributes that form a natural key for the object.  For performance as well as resolving this problem we changed our equals method to do the following:

  1. Check if the objects were the same: obj == otherObj
  2. Check if the objects’ surrogate keys were equal: obj.getId() == otherObj.getId() — or obj.getId().equals(otherObj.getId()), depending on your Id datatype
  3. Check if the objects’ natural/business keys were equal: obj.getSSN().equals(otherObj.getSSN())
Those are just examples and show how we fixed the issue.  The main point is that you should reevaluate your equals, hashCode, and comparator methods to determine if that is causing the flush problem.  Hibernate actually has reasoning and best practices for overriding them that you can follow here.

Credit on my team goes to Reddy Kasireddy, and to the blog where he found it:
http://www.jroller.com/jshingler/entry/org_hibernate_assertionfailure_collection_was

Jun 15

If I ever have children (according to my wife that is a ‘when’ not ‘if’ statement), I am going to put pressure on them to do well in school, but I am currently wondering the best way to do it.

Today a lot of importance is put upon grades.  ”I got all As”. “I graduated with Honors”.  ”I was in the top 5 in my class”.  ”I kept a 4.0″.  Those things are good, and if they were goals you set (or your parents set), then accomplishing them is a great achievement, and an even greater testament to your ability to commit and meet your pursuits.  However, I think it ends just at that.

What if your goal isn’t to get a 4.0, what if your goal is to get a scholarship?  What if your goal is to learn as much as possible so that you are prepared for your job when you graduate?  What if your goal is to get a great job?  I think all of those are more important goals.  The reason I say they are more important is because they have a real world impact on your life (money for school, skill set to excel at your profession, etc.).  Committing to keeping a 4.0 is an internal goal that can have secondary impacts such as getting you a scholarship, or getting you a good job, but my point is that there are other (I would argue, sometimes better) ways of getting a scholarship or getting a good job.

Now, I may be toe-ing a fine line here because my wife kept a 4.0 throughout college.  I am in no way trying to put down those types of achievements.  It points out to potential employers that you are dedicated and meet your commitments.  In her case it also coincides with great intelligence, but my point is it isn’t the only, and sometimes it isn’t even a good, indicator of great intelligence.  I went to school with several people who maintained great grades and were retarded.

So what is my point?  I want to work with my kid to come up with goals that have real world impact, and then help them make decisions to achieve those.  I think approaching it from that perspective, people realize how grades aren’t as important as we all are trained to think.

I made good grades in school (A’s in most core classes, a handful of B’s, and two C’s, one in art because that shouldn’t be a mandatory class, and one in Calculus because we had to keep a test notebook and I am unorganized).  I graduated I think 13th or 15th in my class of 425.  Did any of that help me get a scholarship?  Nope.  I got a scholarship to TTU solely because of what I made on my SAT.  Grade fail.  I got A’s/B’s in english, but got 2 semesters college credit because I took the AP test.  Same for Calculus — C in the class, several semesters’ college credit because of the AP test.  Grade fail.  Here you can already see why I am reluctant to put too much emphasis on grades.  If you actually know the material, what does it matter if you can keep your notebook organized?  If you aren’t ever going to be an artist and have the handwriting of a 2nd grader, what does it matter if you can’t draw a classmate sitting at the front of the room?  I think grades can be a decent barometer of how well you know material, but many times are skewed by inconsequential circumstances.

It continued in college.  I started out in Honors classes (terms of my scholarship, I also had to maintain a 3.5GPA).  After my first year (I still had a 3.5) I applied for an internship for java development, which I knew I wanted to do, and didn’t get it because I didn’t have any experience at all.  The classes I was taking were not preparing me for the real world.  My second year, I changed a lot of my priorities.  My new goals weren’t to make good grades, they were to experience college life (a cop out? maybe a little bit), and learn enough about development to get the job I wanted so I could start getting experience.  Needless to say, that year I lost my scholarship.  But I also had the best time of my life, met my future wife, became an atheist, and got an internship over the summer, all of which has pretty much led directly to where I am today.

Now do I regret losing my scholarship?  At the time yes, because my parents were pissed (even though I was paying fully for my college by myself, so I don’t understand it completely).  Now I don’t.  Sure things could have come out differently, but if it cost me $10K in the short term to find some of my best friends, find my wife, and a job that will pay me many times over the cost of that scholarship, then I’m glad it happened.

Ok, this post got a little off topic and went from theoretical to my life story.  So I’ll just quickly wrap it up for anyone who has read this far, maybe you can help me ponder these thoughts:

1. Is my story lucky, or have you had similar experiences with grades being overly valued and a poor barometer of anything?

2. If not grades, what is the best way to measure and help your kids measure themselves against their goals?

3. Obviously there are times when making bad grades is an indicator of issues, if I don’t make grades a high priority, will it make it harder for me to tell those times, or fix the issues?

4. Is it still better to make grades a high priority based on the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach?

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