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.

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.

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?

Nov 6

Hello All,

If you are reading this you probably know me personally in some way, otherwise you wouldn’t have found your way here.  I’ve had this blog for a little while and I voice my opinions on it with no filter.  Up until, well just now I guess, I have been concerned with who reads my blog to a certain extent.  I haven’t told anyone in my family about it, and really haven’t told any of my friends other than the few that I know usually agree with me, or are open to differing views, or are on the internets all day long.

I haven’t necessarily tried to keep it a secret, but in a few cases I have gone out of my way to conceal it.  For example, Janet was just in the hospital and I made her a blog so people could track her status.  I purposely didn’t put it anywhere linking to/from this site because I knew the people who read it would have different opinions (you can read all about that in a post I made earlier, here).

So why I decided to do this, and why I spammed the link to everyone I know, was to take a step forward and say “this is what I think about stuff, and I like you people so I don’t care if you know it”.  I just read a news report about an atheist in the army who feels he is harrassed by others because of his non-beliefs.  He stood up for his rights and is fighting his superiors on that issue.  I don’t think my situation is similar to his at all, and I actually don’t even know how true his circumstances are.  No one harrasses me, I’m not trying to stand up and fight the power, etc.,  but just reading that type of story convinced me that I shouldn’t be scared to voice my opinions.  I don’t think any of you are oppressive, and I’m not doing this to try and rub my opinions in your face.  If you don’t want to read them, click here.  So please don’t take this as me being aggressive.

A few notices first:

  • if you are easily offended, you probably don’t want to read any of my posts, most aren’t intentionally offensive, but my sense of humor leans on the offensive side and some are intentionally offensive because I find it entertaining to get a rise out of people.
  • if you are already bored with this post, maybe try another, they aren’t all this annoying, or go to youtube
  • i won’t be offended if you never come back or didn’t even read this far
  • i won’t be offended if you put comments that disagree with me, but i would appreciate intelligent, fact based arguments.  or comedy.
  • hopefully this doesn’t make you hate me
So let’s end this post with the real reason I made it in the first place.  Things about me that I’m not ashamed of:
I am an atheist.
I am vulgar and a bit of a potty mouth.  I usually tone it down in public, but not here.
I make jokes about religion.
I talk about programming quite a bit because I’m a computer nerd.
I am open to discussion/re-convincing on any of my opinions.  
I don’t get angry if I’m proven wrong.
Sep 16

In case you don’t know, antlr (ANother Tool for Language Recognition) is a parser generator framework.  It lets you specify a language using a grammar and then it can output the source code for actually compiling and executing that language.  I won’t go in to too much detail about how ANTLR works or how languages and grammars work, one because I’m not an expert (CS classes were a long time ago) and two because google can easily tell you the answer.  The main point of this is that ANTLR can then output that source code in a number of different target languages.

It has support for several (Java, C, C++, ruby, javascript, etc.), but is lacking support for Objective-C in the most recent version.

Well I have started trying to update the Objective-C target stuff.  This has and will be a learning experience, but here are the things to note so far:

  1. I don’t know Objective-C
  2. Objective-C is used mostly by Apple devices (Mac, IPhone) and I have no Apple devices
  3. Adding a target language implementation to ANTLR3 is pretty straight forward except for items 1 and 2
The good news is I have just made a simple calculator language (recognizes numbers, whitespace, and the 4 basic math operations) which is the language version of hello world, and antlr spit out the source code in what I believe to be valid Objective-C.
The bad news is I have no way of compiling that Objective-C to see if it is in fact valid source code.  I’m currently getting some windows ports of several things needed to run it (gcc, GNUStep, magic). I also don’t know Objective-C syntax very well so I don’t have it actually outputing any semantic meaning into the source.  This means my source parses 4 + 4 and knows it needs to call a method (send a message, wtf ever objC) with 2 numbers that adds, but doesn’t output the actual code for that method.  
So this should be interesting, I’ll keep you guys (imaginary people who read my blog) posted on my progess, and if I ever actually get the Objective-C target working for ANTLR, I’ll release it back to folks.
Side note: I know its dumb that I’m trying to do this on windows, “at least use linux” you say, but I have my reasons, none of which are technical.  I’m also aware that Objective-C is just an extension of C and can be compiled by gcc, but the main reason you use it is because of the libraries and those are mostly (other than ghetto ports mentioned above) available on Apple stuff.  So if anyone wants to donate a Mac and/or IPhone that would be great.