Kind Words From a Former Apprentice…and Also, a Coworker

This is another one of those posts that’s been sitting in “Draft Limbo” for about a week now, but something happened this week that gave me a little “kick” to publish it.  First, the older stuff:

Tonight I received an e-mail from a former student assistant of mine who is a now working for a major microprocessor manufacturer in California. (Hint: It’s probably “inside” most of the computers you use today.)

He started out by saying:

“Thanks for teaching me how to fish Yoda! Hope all is well -j”

I thought he was referring to teaching him how to fly fish for trout back in the day, so I asked him if he had caught anything.

Turns out he meant something different:

“…sorry, didn’t have time to finish the email. Thanks for helping me fish…aka learn linux with the rtfm comments…”

By way of explanation:  Back in the day at the University, we shared an office space.  He was eager to learn Linux, and I was happy to have his help with my projects and daily work.  Whenever he would get “stuck,” instead of giving him the answer so I could go right back to work, I’d take a little extra time to give him hints and guide him to find the answer on his own.  I can’t tell you how many times I would say, “RTFM, dude.  It’s in there.  I found it, so you can too.  Now, let’s start by looking here…”

Eventually, he was given some of his own projects and systems to design on his own.  At first he would ask me how he should build things. Eventually, as I let him have more space to spread his wings, I would turn it around and ask him “So, how would YOU like to build this?”  It was a great feeling to watch him grow.

He finished his E-mail to me with this:

“This has helped me a ton in my life ever since. :-)”

Wow.  What a great feeling.

Now, back to the coworker that got me thinking about this post again.  Earlier this week, my coworker took and passed his CCNA on the first try.  This is no small feat, especially considering he only came on board a few months ago.  I congratulated him on passing his CCNA, and as we we talking he stopped and said, “I wanted to thank you for something.”


“When I first started, remember when I asked you [something about subnet masking within firewall rules]?”

“Sure I do, but…what’s special about that?”

“Well, you didn’t just give me the answer.  You told me where to start looking, and I learned much more from than if you had just answered the question, so thanks for that.”

I guess it’s like they say:  “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Top 7 Best Online Colleges for 2010

Norwich University, the institution where I earned my Masters in Information Assurance, came out as number one in this list of the Top 7 Best Online Colleges for 2010.

From the article:

“Most of the positive reviewers described Norwich University’s programs as very rigorous, and detractors agreed: from their perspective, Norwich’s workloads were too demanding.”

I remember during a class conference call, one of my professors stated he honestly felt that the reading requirements exceeded those of many doctoral programs.  Wow.  Maybe I should go for the doctorate after all.  Dad would like that, anyway.

Some Random Stuff

Yeah, this might be a placeholder post, I’m still avoiding just buckling down and posting the five or six half-finished posts I’ve started.  Sorry, Amy. I’ll get on that real soon.

Random thoughts:

  1. Perhaps twitter has fried my brain and I can’t write more than 140 characters at a time?
  2. This is a weekend of some historical significance–
  3. Three years ago, The Shaner died.  RIP, my brother.  I haven’t been on a motorcycle since.
  4. Two years ago, I was at Norwich University graduating from my Master’s program.
  5. One year ago, I was at my brother’s graduation in Houston, obsessively checking the iPhone for updates on the Stanley Cup Game Seven, and texting my favorite hockey fan about it.  The next day, I drove one of my brother’s  cars home from Houston to Kentucky solo.  That was a LONG trip.
  6. Tonight, Dad and I met the guy who builds covered docks down at the lake.  I hope this covered dock thing actually happens.  You have no idea how much easier it would make life down at the lake to not have to struggle with that messy, nasty “canvas.”
  7. Nashville once again reminds me it is a fun town…I had a great time on Monday at the NHL Tweetup and flood relief fundraiser.  There might have even been some photos. Shortly after that photo of me was taken (you did look, right?), the ladies confiscated my belt clip for my iPhone.  Katie called it “Chick Repellent.”  Ok, so looking at the photo…she might have a point.
  8. Mike is here tonight, we continued our tradition of watching non-family-safe movies while he’s away and has the chance to do so.  Tonight’s selection: Shutter Island. Freaky.
  9. I got the Jetta back!  More testing is needed, but we think it was all due to a faulty crank sensor. Time will tell.  For the first time in my life, I now have a backup vehicle.  It’s about time!
  10. I’ve managed to spend time in Nashville the last 2-3 weekends (I think), it’s all a blur.  It’s true what they say about time seeming to go faster as we age…is it really June already?  I never thought summer would get here, now it’s flying by WAY too fast.
  11. I’m still hoping to make it to Wisconsin for a summer visit, but I don’t know if my [lack of] “vacation” schedule will allow for it.
  12. I’ve been slacking on the running due to injury and illness.  Time to get back on the horse.  Also:  Strength training.  Time to push through the soreness and pain.  Ouch.
  13. I discovered there will be a Field Day operation here in Hopkinsville.  I think I’ll offer to help out as an operator rather than try to set up my own single-op station.
  14. Clark Milam is the best dog ever.
  15. Oh, and I hope to cross a couple of “bucket list” items off this weekend.

Finally…I’ve been staring at this quote from a text I sent a while back for too long and I need to just drop it here and get it over with because I’m sick of seeing it in my drafts folder:

“I just wonder if anyone in the old Nashville crew ever wonders what happened to that Chuck guy from Kentucky.”

When I wrote that, I was kind of maudlin.  Now, after some recent events…I’m cool.  The old reliable Nashville crew never forgot me…and there’s some new members that are all kinds of awesome.  With that, I’m out…time for bed.  Friday tomorrow!  Oh, that reminds me:  Fridays used to be party nights…now it seems they’re for rest, packing and preparation for the weekend, and it’s not just me doing it.  We must be getting old.  Heh.

Chuck Milam’s Seven Secrets of Academic Success at UW-Oshkosh

I wrote this shortly before I finally graduated from UW Oshkosh, and left it with my fraternity chapter.  Recently, Victor discovered it in his archives and sent it back to me.  It was fun to read this blast from the past, and I think most of this still holds true today.  I do come down on academic advisors pretty hard here, but at the time I had good reason to.  Looking back at it now, I will apply this disclaimer:  Not all academic advisors are horrible.  There was one advisor in the Liberal Studies department that really made all the difference for me in getting me credit for ALL my classes when I returned to school, and she got me on the track to graduation in the shortest time possible.  Some of the other advisors that were working at UWO at the time would have done well to have learned from her.

So without further explanation, I present:

Chuck Milam’s Seven Secrets of Academic Success at UW-Oshkosh

This was originally a presentation given in the fall of 1999 to my fraternity pledge class as part of the “Academics” component of The Journey. I speak from experience. I almost failed out of school in 1995, left school to take a job before they could kick me out, and then returned to complete my degree in 1998. Most of what is presented here was learned in my “second go around” from 1998-1999.

1. Go to class. Nothing is more important. No matter how hung over, sick, or just plain tired you are, go to class. Even if you are only semi-conscious, you can at least absorb enough through osmosis to pass the class. You cannot pass a class if you’re not there to learn the material or take the exams.

2. Your advisor is not going to help you. Contrary to popular belief, your advisor is not going to bend over backwards to help you plan your academic career and help you graduate on time. You advisor is most likely only concerned with getting you out of his office so he can get back to his game of computer golf or surfing to You are better off consulting with professors or fraternity brothers in your major. Which leads us to point #3:

3. Use your resources. Through the fraternity, you have access to brothers who have “been there” already. They know what professors to take, what professors to avoid and what classes are a guaranteed “GPA booster.” Make use of brothers in your major, especially–they’ll be happy to help you.

4. Don’t fall into the “GPA trap.” In many academic majors, if you drop below a certain minimum GPA, you won’t be able to take upper-level classes. If you can’t get into upper-level classes, you can’t graduate. So, you end up trapped in a vicious cycle, blowing tuition money, accruing useless course credits and not making any real progress toward graduation. If you’re following rule #1, above, this will not be a problem for you.

5. Don’t believe the “Academic Major/GPA Hype.” Since high school, you’ve been told that you have to have a “decent major” and a “decent GPA” (usually 3.0 or better) in order to have any hope of getting a job out of college. This is quite possibly the biggest lie told to students today. Major in something you really are interested in, not something that you think will get you a good job. After you have your degree, an employer isn’t going to care if you majored in business or art. He’s not going to care what your GPA was. All that matters is that you get that degree. After all, it’s why you’re here, right? Right.

6. Everything can be appealed and/or waived. Don’t let academic advisors convince you that you cannot get into the upper-level courses because you are missing one or two classes. (College of Business advisors are notorious for this.) Remember step #2, above? Your advisor could care less if you have to take an extra semester to meet some silly prerequisite requirement. These kinds of things can be waived. Ask for a waiver or an appeal. If you’re not happy with the answers you’re getting from your advisor, go to the department chair, to the dean of the college, the provost, whatever it takes to get what you need done. It is your right as a student (paying customer) to make steady academic progress and graduate on time.

7. Demand the same level of performance from your professors that they demand of you. Don’t tolerate professors who don’t show up for office hours or class, who don’t clearly explain their grading criteria, or who don’t grade consistently. Remember, everyone answers to someone. You can take your complaints to the department chair, to the dean of the college, right on up the chain, just as in step #6, above. Some professors are beyond hope. Avoid them by making sure you consult with others on who to avoid. See #3, above.

Remember these seven simple steps, and you’ll be on the road to graduate “on schedule.”