Richard Tocci

Richard Tocci
Just when you thought it was safe, I show up...

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The contents of this blog are my own comments and opinions and do not reflect those of my family, friends, colleagues, clients, employers, or anyone else I may know. Additionally, their comments and opinions are not a reflection of me or this blog. Any links contained in posts are maintained by third parties and are not under the control of this blog, and as such, this blog is not responsible for their content. All links are provided "as is" with no explicit or implicit warranty of any kind.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Breakin'

Mark and Linda Bendiksen celebrated their birthdays today by inviting a bunch of friends and family to the Kurten Church. In true Mark Bendiksen style, it was a night of music, mirth, and mayhem, in delicate balance. Mark is a musician, and as such, the night revolved around music. I won 2 rounds of Name That TV Theme Tune (I named the theme song to Hawaii Five-O in 6 notes -- almost a give-a-way -- while changing Hayden's diaper, and the theme to Dynasty in 3 notes), and enjoyed tunes from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Mark also serenaded his wife to Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are", and played Jimmy Buffet's "Pirate Looks At Forty" for himself.

I have the kids this weekend, and they were warmly welcomed. Mark and Linda have 4 children, so they understand. I met up with old friends -- the guy that gave me my first job in College Station, Chris Taylor, and his wife, Sarah, were there, and plenty of people I worked with attended.

Alex, of course, was a bundle of energy, quickly charming many guests easily. In between bouts of artificial flower throwing with several guests and eating birthday cake, he managed many laughs during the evening.

Tim Coones, one of the engineers I work with at Vertafore, told Alex to dance. Alex started jumping in place in the style of Flashdance. Then out of nowhere, he drops to the ground and does a shoulder spin. He nearly pulled off a backspin but could not get the momentum to complete it.

Guests were applauding and asking for more, but I was in shock. Where did he learn THIS? Not that it's a BAD thing -- in fact, I was impressed he pulled off one move, and nearly the second, but it's not exactly something a 4-year-old just knows how to do. This was popular when I was a teenager.

I called his mother and asked her if she knew. In between giggles, snorts, and laughs, she had no idea either. He either saw it on TV or someone taught it to him. I'm guessing TV, but I guess I'll never know.

I can't blame Tim for telling Alex to dance. I might have done the same thing. That, and Tim took one of the best pictures of me and the boys in quite some time. In fact, it's desk worthy, so I have him to thank for that.

Clint Burns, one of my high school classmates, was a Breaker back in the 80s. Maybe I should call him and ask him to tutor Alex. Perhaps there's a career here I never saw...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Edge of the Galaxy

Yesterday, Josie and Doug drove me out to the peninsula where the Makah Nation Indian Reservation is located. The intent of the trip was to take me to see the Pacific Ocean.

The trip was windy and interesting. We took the Edmonds\Kingston Ferry, and then stopped in Port Angeles for a late lunch of fish and chips and dungeoness crap before moving along 101, driving past Lake Crescent (webcam, wiki), right along the edge of the Olympic Mountains (US Park Service Site, wiki).

We made it to the reservation around 7PM, but it was quite dark before then. I wasn't going to see much in the way of shoreline, I figured, but at the least I could say I'd been there.

I was SO wrong about not seeing anything...

We found a spot to park along Hobuck Beach. I opened the car door and heard the ocean roaring along the shoreline. Flashlight in hand, I checked where we were standing so to avoid a costly accident. The shoreline was rocky, the road we drove on butting right up to a huge 100 foot cliff. There were loads of rocks on which to climb down to the packed sandy beach. I was at the water's edge for quite a while, just listening to the ocean waves crashing along the shore, on the huge rocks. I found it quite peaceful.

Then I looked up to the sky. On this beach, there is no light pollution -- light from city streets or buildings or lines of cars or streetlamps. I turned off the flashlight once I was off the beach, and the sky was just magnificent.

When Carl Sagan talked about billions and billions of stars, I never realized what the number meant. With no light pollution, I could see billions of stars -- tiny specs of twinkling light dotting the dark night sky. In the midst of all the stars I could see the cosmic dust and aurora that makes up the disk that is our galaxy. I have never seen that before ever in my life. Doug called it The Edge of the Galaxy.

My head was craned up to the heavens for about an hour, and I never felt any pain. I saw three shooting stars that night, more then I had ever seen in one night in my life. I saw stars between stars, and constellations between those stars. I also never saw that many shades of dark blue, either, contrasting with the shades of white of The Edge.

Time flew by. I was so thankful I saw the sky that night. I still have a goal to see the Pacific Ocean by day, but I was there that one night, gazing into The Edge of the Galaxy, and finally saw how small we really are.

I think I may have gazed into God's eyes that night.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Seattle

This past week, I visited Seattle, Washington for the PASS Summit 2008 convention. This is the first time I've been to the west coast, and it has been a great journey.

The corporate headquarters of Vertafore are located in Bothell, Washington, just north of Seattle. I finally got a chance to visit and work at the site, which has been a goal of mine for some time. You see, I work with a load of people at this site, even though I live and work everyday physically in College Station, Texas in the Data Center. I finally got to meet people I've talked to on the telephone for the last 8-10 years or so. It was great to hug, talk to, and paugh with these people that have so become a part of my life.

I told a few people I was arriving, but not all people. The surprise factor was definitely on my side when I showed up at a few desks and said hello. I spent the first few hours of my arrival on Monday going around and saying hello to people, explaining what I was in town for, how long I would be, where I was staying, and the lot. Tuesday I was able to sit at a desk and work, but this time with a different group of people.

I have a reputation of, let's say, speaking my mind. I also can be a maverick and even possibly a loose cannon. I never saw it that way, of course -- we never see ourselves from the outside, only from our own perspective -- but I can see how I could be seen that way. So it was funny when one of the analysts I've worked with for so long asked me "So, are you starting trouble?" I asked for 15 minutes time to get something started!

The one thing that has yet to catch up to me is the time difference. Because the company is located on the west coast, it's 3 hours behind the bulk of our customers on the east coast. So, as a result, many people arrive at work at 5AM and leave at 2PM. When I arrived at work at 8AM, I felt like a slacker. So many people had been working for 3 hours already, and here I was, sauntering into the room as if to say "Time to work!" while they have been on the phones or doing other work for hours before, and in some cases before I even woke up that morning.

But the real reason I took this trip was to go to PASS and learn a few things about Microsoft SQL Server. It was a great conference. I even had the chance to catch up to someone I went to high school with. Douglas McDowell was a freshman when I was a senior, and I found out about this conference through him in the first place. We caught up on the last 20 years and had a few laughs. Doug is a charter member of PASS so it was great to see 2 people from the same high school doing so well in the database and computing industry. We are not the only ones -- I know a Windows Admin in the Philly area from our school, as well as a guy that created his own company based on network security.

I did get a lot of information from the conference, and I'll implement some of that next week to figure a few things out in our data center.

Josie, one of my colleagues and a great friend, was gracious to let me stay at her house during my stay. I got to meet her husband and son, and had a great time at her house. Friday night we had a dinner party and invited a few other colleagues and friends, and had a good time. Dino brought his cameras (one of which was a video camera, which I'm sure contains PLENTY of blackmail material!), and toward the end of the night, here's how well it went:


Photobucket

Now it's time for a few shoutouts:

Josie, thank you for inviting me into your home. It was awesome!

Steve, you get me in trouble EVERY time we get together! You are a BAD influence! But I had fun, so that's all that matters. The boy gets me drunk every time we get together...not that it takes a whole lot or that he force fed the beer. And everyone thanks you for the cold!

Kemp, thanks for letting me sit at your desk. Next time you better be here.

Marin, thanks for sharing your beer. You also contributed to my delinquency. Damn you! But thanks for having fun with us on Monday, it was a blast!

To everyone that attended the dinner party, I'll get Dino to post all of the video on YouTube as soon as possible. Parental Guidance is HIGHLY suggested.

(No, we really won't post the video...I just wanted to visualize your reactions...)

(Well, it IS Dino's video...I have no idea if he'll post it or not...)

(Are you scared yet? :))

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Superman, Pay Up...

I finally broke down and bought Superman Returns today, with a bit of trepidation. I'm a big superhero fan, and superhero movie fan, and, like so many others, saw this movie in the theater. I was highly impressed with the newer, updated flying effects, the new cast (Kevin Spacey is just brilliant as Lex Luthor, better than Gene Hackman, I believe), and the story wasn't bad, either. I also like the casting of Brandon Routh -- he's a clone of Chris Reeve and plays both Superman and Clark Kent very well.

If you were keen enough to figure it out early enough, or the big hints hit you about halfway into the movie, you found that Lois Lane's boy is the son of Superman, though he appears to be plagued with all types of health problems. He later defends his momma, Lois Lane, by shoving (actually, it was more like throwing) a piano into a henchman that was smacking his mother around.

What got my head going was child support.

Yes, I thought about child support. You know, here's a guy that flies around saving the world. No one knows who he is, where he lives, what else he does outside of flying around and saving the world, and he goes and gets Lois Lane knocked up, leaves the friggin' galaxy for 5 years chasing his extinct home planet, comes back and simply settles right back into his life. Except now, he's got a kid, and Lois has not told her fiancee that this kid is the son of the most power person on the planet Earth.

How does someone go about filing for child support on Superman? Do you go to social services and file, not knowing the guy's address? No one even knows if he HAS an address. And then, how do you collect?

Superman is supposed to be the upstanding guy, and I'm sure he'd pay up, but it's just one of those things I thought about. Superman flying over to the house, handing Lois an envelope with cash or a check, and asking about taking little Jason for the weekend. So then, Jason finds out about the Fortress of Solitude, and Lois wonders how the hell he paid for THAT thing, and wants more money. Superman starts to do weekend and night gigs at parties, catching crooks and saving the world in between gigs and working at the Daily Planet (where half of his pay check, if you recall from the original Superman movie, goes to Martha).

The poor kid also has asthma and a few other things, that apparently go away once he chucks the piano across the room. Who's paying for THAT?

Then what about grandparents? Poor Martha Kent will never be able to see the kid because that will give away Superman's identity, and it seems Superman doesn't want to give THAT away, even to the woman with whom he had sex and that gave birth to his child.

Superman is also a little creepy, spying on the house with his X-Ray Vision and super hearing, pretty much whenever he wants.

I told you, I just start thinking about this and it just goes on...

There were a couple of things I spotted in the movie this time around, and I think I spotted one of them in the theater. Jack Larson, who played the bartender in this movie, played the original Jimmy Olsen in the Superman TV series of the 50s. He looks darn good being in his mid-80s. Also, in the Space Shuttle, Sir Richard Branson played the shuttle engineer. Later when I looked up the cast, I found Sam Branson, his son, I think, played right along side him. In reading the trivia section of IMDB for this movie, there were more cameos I didn't catch. I love this stuff -- it's all very interesting to me. I also heard Gotham City mentioned, recognized the homage to Action Comics #9, the location where the first Kryptonite was found, and the bit about air travel being the safest way to fly.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Next President

I've avoided talking about the upcoming presidential election. Not that the election is not important -- in fact, I think it's the most important election to come along in quite some time. I just haven't found anything useful or insightful to say about it.

Then I realized I usually think better when I simply write -- just let it come out and see what it looks like. I decided to try that tonight.

The fact is I'm not really impressed with either campaign.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden don't appeal to me at all. They've had a pretty consistent message, but it's the message I don't like. Both say that if I decide I want to make over $250000 a year (the number has changed several times, but that really doesn't matter) then I will likely see an increase in taxes taken from my paycheck.

I want you to take a look at the 2007 Tax Tables for various filing status, directly from the IRS web site. I was pretty good at math when I was in school, and this just bugs the hell out of me. Look at the tables and you will see one consistency -- as you make more money, a larger percentage of money is taken from your paycheck.

A larger percentage!

That makes no sense at all. And to top it off, Joe Biden says you should be patriotic and pay your fair share. What does patriotic have to do with you paying a larger percentage of taxes? And is this fair?

Now, I don't make money in the uppermost parts of those tax tables. But if I took a job where I did, my tax rate goes up by another 10%.

This is not the message I want to hear. You want to be fair? Flat tax rate after a certain level of income would be fair.

So Obama and Biden just don't appeal to me.

Oh, and I'll cheap shot Biden (don't worry -- I'll probably cheap shot everyone by the time I'm done). He talks about how in HIS neighborhood, he doesn't know of a plumber that makes $250000 a year. In Joe Biden's neighborhood, it's a little more exclusive, and more expensive, than most of us live. In fact, I'm not sure that Biden even talks to his plumber that deeply. But that's just my opinion.

Obama is a great orator, but he's not blowing my skirt up at all.

John McCain and Sarah Palin don't really do it for me, either. I like Palin's spirit, and her boots (Facebook friends know what I'm talking about), but there's something about her I don't like.

She strikes me as a fake person. Her mannerisms on stage don't match her body language when she's done on stage.

When she was first introduced as the VP candidate with McCain, I felt it was a good pick, and in some ways still do. Female, husband a blue collar union member, strong personality, great speaking voice, incredible energy. But I watched her as I watched Biden, and maybe it's the fact that Biden's been doing this a LOT longer than she has. But I'm not comfortable with her being second in command. Not now, anyway.

In my opinion, she would have made a pretty good cabinet member, or even a Senator. Maybe I'm wrong entirely. But I just don't feel comfortable with her in the VP position.

A friend of mine at work asked me if I was threatened by strong women. She knew better than to ask me a question like that -- almost all of the women in my life have been very strong women. Both my ex-wives, my sisters, my daughter, my grandmother, and my aunt are some of the strongest women I know. My grandmother tops all of them. I also knew my friend was joking a bit, too. It's not that she's a strong woman. I just don't think she's the RIGHT woman for the job.

I'll tell you who I think would have been a better choice if the Republicans wanted a woman for VP -- I would have courted Condolezza Rice or Elizabeth Dole. Rice is extremely intelligent, and would have done VERY well in a leadership position. She's done a great job, in my opinion, in the State Department. Dole has experience in leadership all of her life -- she was Secretary of Transportation, is now a Senator, and has years of experience working in Washington at many levels.

OK, McCain says he doesn't want someone that's used to Washington -- he wants a Maverick. Two Mavericks, he says, to shake up Washington. I'm all for shaking up the establishment but I'm not convinced they can do it if they don't show a unified front. They disagree on some subjects. Global Warming and ANWAR are a couple of areas, but they think this is a good thing. I don't think it's that good -- it sends a mixed message to voters that I don't think he can afford.

OK, so I haven't cheap shotted anyone else yet. I'll find some cheap shots and post them later.

The core of my message, if there is one (this is Randomness, anyway) is that I don't like either of these candidates, but I think I will be inclined to vote for the lesser of two evils. And I might just do something I've never done before.

I might just vote Republican for President.