fighting the lack of good ideas

some great finds – it’s sorta like Visio, but free, and web-based. – like webex, including conference calling and file and screen sharing.

Qama – a calculator that doesn’t give an answer until you provide a “reasonable” guess.

Udacity – a free computer science program.

Urbanchickens – dedicated to raising chickens in “non-traditional” environments (like cities).

groupon is no good!

I think I might have to boycott Groupon: a few months back they had a deal for an introductory flight, first ground school time, and pilot log book for about 50% off the normal rate from the local flight training company, NexGen Aviation.

I arrive at the airport a little before 1400 for my flight on Sunday. Adrian, my instructor, is an intensely friendly man. He’s originally from Zimbabwe, though has spent enough time in Kentucky that now his family think he has an accent 🙂

NexGen has a Piper Warrior – a four-place, low-wing, single engine airplane they use for lessons.

Things I did not know about operating an aircraft – you steer while you’re on on the ground with your feet.

Adrian opened the door and told me to get in first. That was not what I expected – that put me in the pilot’s seat. After doing a quick preflight, he started the engine, and we started taxiing… more accurately, while he radioed the tower for clearance, he had me taxi us out onto the runway.

So that was pretty cool .. but it got better: when we got to the runway, and the tower had cleared us, I got to take off =D

Adrian ran the throttle, and he took care of the trim tabs and explained to me what I had to do, but otherwise he let me fly for the about 30 minutes we were up – the only time he took over was for our landing. We toured around Lexington at ~2500 feet (buzzing up to nearly 3000 as I tried to maintain our heading, steer, look around, and keep us flying level-ish.

I got to see our house from 2500 feet, and a variety of other parts of Lexington that I think may help when it comes to driving, too.

Now for the bad news: I’m hooked. And the total time and outlay that getting my license will entail will be at least 40 hours of flying time (including different type of solo time), along with several hours of ground school. And all of that combined with needing to take a written test so the FAA will eventually be willing to give me a check ride so I can get my license.


That’ll run ~$6650 … if I go as quickly as I can. Taking too much time between lessons will help to reduce retention, so I’m probably more realistically looking at about $10k to complete my license.

I’m accepting donations, though 😉

technical career development

Career development. Career path. Development opportunities. Taking your career to the next level.

Terms and phrases we all hear and pretty much pass over in our day-to-day lives. Right up until we want to move to a new/better job or performance reviews roll around.

But what do they mean, and how can you advance your career (presuming, of course, that you want to)?

This is by no means an exhaustive list – indeed, I’d appreciate any other ideas / feedback / improvements y’all may suggest 🙂

For a software developer:

  • be the documentation KING of your code – if it’s not right, make it right
  • own every bug in your code – even when it’s not “yours”
  • be The Guy™ who learns a new component of the code/product (at least conversationally) every few weeks
  • write at least one tutorial a month on the internal wiki/kb about something you found or did with the code
  • write at least one tutorial or similar a month externally (maybe a personal blog) in a general fashion about something you learned or did

For a systems consultant:

  • be the documentation KING of every project you work on – make ABSOLUTELY sure the next guy can do more after you leave
  • own every issue you find, even when it’s really somebody else’s problem (no throwing it over the fence)
  • the The Guy™ who learns something new about the environment or product every couple weeks
  • write at least one tutorial a month and/or give an overview talk of something you learned/did
  • write about what you’ve done (changing names to protect the innocent) on a blog or elsewhere
  • teach as many people as are willing to learn what you know (in your company / on your team / etc)

Focus – decide where you want to be, and plot a course to get there.

Finally, NEVER make yourself “irreplaceable” – the instant you make yourself irreplaceable, you also make yourself unpromotable: after all, if you’re the Only Guy™ who can do your job, why would your boss/manager/supervisor even think of moving you into a new role?

As a side note – if you’re ever working at a customer site, don’t take calls from anyone other than the customer while you’re at your desk/cube/workspace: even if it’s project related, take it in a different room 🙂

reading again

Wow. It’s been several months since I last posted a book review. I have been reading in the mean time – just haven’t gotten around to posting any of them hereon.

In the intervening months I’ve read 1434 by Gavin Menzies (follow-on to 1421) and The Lost City of Z by David Grann. I’m currently reading Netherland by Joseph O’Neill and Radical by David Platt.

I also bought a Kobo ereader at one of the Border’s stores in Louisville, and my wife and I have started reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain together.

I’m sure there have been others, too – but I’ll be posting reviews of them over the coming weeks.

light shows

I’ve recently had some travel for work that had put me up in Indianapolis.

Tuesday evening I watched the best light show ever: a miles-high, miles-wide thunderhead flashing nearly constantly for over 30 minutes.

It was a little east of where I was staying in Fishers, but man was it pretty!

For the record, God’s fireworks are cooler than any 4th of July party 😀


A few years ago I was working for Sigma Xi as an intern, and was introduced to the then-young Connexions project from Rice University.

This week I was reminded of the service, and have started looking into ways I can contribute to their open repository of educational materials.

I’d written two articles published there when I was at Sigma XI, and while one of them now looks somewhat quaint and dated, I think there are some other areas that I could contribute to that would be helpful.

CNX is free and open to anyone to use, add-to, modify, and reference – so have fun 🙂


Following-on with what my wife wrote last week, we’ve been enjoying going to local auction houses again recently – even on nights when there’s nothing we want, it’s still at the very least entertaining 🙂

The last couple times we’ve gone, we’ve been to the Williamsburg Auction Center, near where my wife grew up. The building is clean (no smoking indoors, or near the doors), the organizers are professional and fun, and there is food available for purchase (“Supper will be available at Judy’s AUCTION HOUSE RESTAURANT Serving 4:30 p.m. to end of auction. Menu includes Judy’s homestyle Southern Recipies and Delicious Desserts!”).

So far we’ve found some interesting old books, and a few other odds and ends. If you can find one near you, I’d encourage you to go – for the entertainment value, if nothing more 🙂