I Need a New Blog Title

Hive mind, I need your help here. I have determined that the title of this blog: “Chuck Milam’s Musings – Random Thoughts From a Not-So Random Dude,” is hideous, weak, and lame.

I’m now taking suggestions for a new blog title from those of you that are better with the creative than I. Leave it in the comments below. Thanks.

My YouTube Debut?

I think this is the first time I actually show up on YouTube, courtesy of Jane Q. Public’s new video camera.  I do wish it was something besides me in mid-rant over fashion choices, but some people think it’s funny.  Enjoy!

UPDATE:  Hmm…I wonder if it was bad form for me embed the video here, rather than link directly to Jane Q. Public’s original blog post?  I’m so out of touch with current post vs. link etiquette.

Mom’s Tribute to Fudge, the Original “Best Dog Ever”

On Christmas morning of 2009, we had to take Fudge on his final car ride. This is my Mom’s tribute to his memory. He was a big part of the family for over ten years.  The photo is what I believe to be the last photo in my collection taken of Fudge, shot on Thanksgiving Day of 2009 at my brother’s house in Louisville.  For the record, there are hundreds of photos of Fudge in my photo library.

JOURNEY OF THE FABULOUS FUDGE

Fudge with Baby Ben
Fudge and Baby Ben on Thanksgiving

By Carolyn Milam

Late winter in Kentucky—homeless dog and lonely young physician bond as they walk.  Nine dollars seals the deal.  I am yours, Dad, and you are mine.  Do you think Mom will love me, too?  Dad, your red pickup?  LET’S GO!

GO…thousands of miles from Lexington to St. Louis to Virginia to Nashville, to Houston, to the Lake House.  Dad,  I’ll ride shotgun.

CHEESE…string cheese, marbled Colby-muenster, plain old American.  I’ll shake, lie down, talk.  Feed me cheese.  Or turkey, tofu casserole, those luscious bourbon-pecan chocolate brownies…so near the edge of the counter.  Sorry, Mom.  Quick—my elixir—you know—birdbath water.  Hey, Ben and Jack, send a few tidbits under the table.  I’m waiting.  But Ben, peanut butter sticks to the roof of my mouth.

SKUNKED…Old Mike, look at those friendly black and white kitties.  I must meet and greet.  What!  The smell,  stinging in my eyes.  Steak Lady, how long will I be in the garage and how many more peppermint soap and tomato juice baths?

THUNDER…another storm, or the Fort Campbell guns or Uncle Chuck’s target practice.  Quick! safe spot, cover me with the red comforter, play Pachabel.  Together, we’ll make it through.

DREAMS…chasing deer at the creek and through a few thickets, barking away another pesky Harley on Harmony Grove Road, retrieving Old Mike’s Croc from the lake, guarding Mom while Dad’s away, chasing rabbits and chipmunks and blue jays from my territory.

Now my journey changes.  Remember the Eternal  restores all things.  Then, I’ll fetch, leap and roll again.  So, beloved family, until then, maybe soon, until then.

This is NOT a List of New Year’s Resolutions

Looking back at that post about Swatches, I am a little embarrassed about it. It’s weak. Confession time: That post’s content was actually a short off-the-cuff E-mail reply sent to Jane Q. Public, and I pretty much just cut-n-pasted it from my E-mail sent folder. I guess I was just stretching to add something—anything—here to keep from blogfading. (Is that a word? I was thinking of the term “podfading.”)

I like to say that I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but I think it’s funny that I end up doing them anyway even if I don’t declare them as such.

So, as they say, if you want to achieve a goal, make it specific and write it down. Here is my list of goals (not resolutions) for this year:

1. I will update this blog at least once a week. Surely something of interest will happen around here every seven days. Even though I tried to blame facebook and twitter for my lack of posting here last year, I need to post here more often. Let’s face it, 140 characters isn’t the best way to improve one’s writing skills, and facebook is mostly just a 24/7 class reunion. Sometimes this free-form blog format is the best for what I want to say. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some things happened in 2009 that helped me to get out of the house, step away and look up from the keyboard, and start to enjoy my life here. I shudder to think where I would be or what I’d look like today if I continued down the “post-grad-school come home, flop into the Lay-Z-Boy and spend hours on facebook/twitter” path I was on. Now, I’m spending more time in the real physical world, outside of the Interwebs. This gives me more material to write about instead of just posting inane status updates like “Watching the corn grow.”

2. I will get back into shape. While I’m not in terrible shape for a guy my age who does manage to keep up with play as a high school soccer referee, I could always do better. See, there’s a little something bugging me: I missed a chance at going to the FBI academy because I applied with less than three months to prepare and couldn’t get myself up to the physical standards before I ran out of time due to my age (Cue: @janeqpublic with an “Oldie Twobuckles” comment). This has always kind of bugged me. I’m not bothered that I didn’t go the FBI route.  I think it’s because I couldn’t pass the physical tests at the time. I think if I can just get to the point where I know I do meet that standard, I’ll be happy. Also, it will help with soccer and hockey work to be in better shape. Ok, I also have to admit, I want to look better, feel better, and just plain feel better about how I look. I don’t want to end up on hotchickswithdouchebags.com. Because seriously, have you seen @janeqpublic? Rawr.

3. I will lose the weight. Obviously, this is a positive side benefit of getting back in shape as described above, but diet is also a key component of the weight loss process. I’ve been inspired by some friends, some of which have lost over 35 pounds in just a year. The challenge of living in this part of the country is not only the high-calorie food; it’s the rituals that are attached to the consumption of food. Special occasion? There must be a huge spread of food! Lots of desserts! Deep fried everything! No big deal, if it’s not an everyday thing, right? Well, what makes a special occasion down here? Anything. Tuesday. My solution: Eat less, do more, and make use of the calorie counting apps on the iPhone that really help with the dietary reality checks.

4. I will get moving on the IT Certifications again. I admit I slacked off last year after I got the CISSP, but the market is more competitive than ever and certifications are in vogue again as a means to differentiate job candidates. At the very least, it’s time I knocked off the one certification in particular that I’ve started/stopped on for five years now.

5. I will start and keep up with a budget. It seems that every year I say “I’m going to use Quicken to track my expenses and I’m going to keep up with it…” and then I quit after a month. This year will be different. I’m considering some major moves this year that will simply require that I make a written budget plan and stick with it. Which finally leads me to the big one…

6. I will stop living in fear. What? Yeah, I said it. Time to stop denying that I’ve been living in fear for the last few years. I’ve come to realize that losing my job while having a mortgage over my head really did a number on me. I had mostly given up on things like owning a house and having a wife and kids because I was scared to take the leap. Not. Any. More. I’m going to get back to living life, because someone showed me it’s all worth the risks.

Old Swatches Bring Back Memories

Jane Q. Public sent me a link to some classic Swatch watches.  Looking at these brought back a lot of memories. Also, I now know what I spent a big portion of my time in middle and high school doing: Staring at my watch.

We had a facebook reminiscing session about Swatches after my best friend from middle school posted a photo of me wearing one. I remember having a bunch of these–but we think we may have just traded them around. Somehow I don’t see Bob & Carolyn Milam indulging me in fashion wristwatches in 1988. I wore a Swatch well into college as I recall.

I think this was one I bought myself. Special Halley’s comet edition, celebrating the comet’s return in 1986, which was also the first time I genuinely contemplated my mortality–wondering if I’d be around in 75 years to see it again. Pretty heavy stuff for a 13/14-year-old.

I had this one for a long time. I was fascinated by it, being able to see the inner workings.

I hung onto this one for a while after I got bitten by the flying/airplane bug.

This was the one I wore into college. Boring, but still a Swatch.

Users Want Their Computers to “Just Work”

This weekend, one of my facebook friends posted this all-too-common tale of computer woe:

“So much for my new computer…I woke up this morning to find out my new computer was already broken. So after having the computer for less then 12 hours it wouldn’t even work. Thanks to the Geek Squad I now have a brand new computer tower that is finally up and running! Now I have no time to play on the computer because I have to go to work:(“

Being only partially awake and a little grouchy, I posted this admittedly not-very-helpful comment:

“www.apple.com…”

A few minutes later, I was notified by E-mail that someone had responded:

“She didn’t say apple or pc. Pc’s easy to work on and half price of apple. The only good deal is the Apple Ipod touch which I am typing on. Easy choice for the money is PC .”

I just smiled to myself. I will admit I am making some assumptions here based on what little I know of this person from briefly viewing his profile, but I think I have a pretty good guess of his “type.” This person is likely a computer hobbyist who enjoys providing technical support to his friends and family. Since he is only comfortable in the PC and the Microsoft Windows world, he probably recommends people stay within his technical comfort zone so he can help them out and feed his hero complex.

What really got my attention was the phrase: “Pc’s easy to work on and half price of apple.”

First, PCs in many cases can be had for even less than half the price of Apple computers, but I will come back to that little nit-picky point in a later post. Let’s talk about “PC’s easy to work on.” I’m assuming that this “type” of guy is saying “PCs are easy to maintain, repair and upgrade,” rather than “PCs are easy to get work done on.”

Assuming he means the former, my response is: “So what if the PC is [arguably] easier for technical people to work on? The user does not care about how easy it is for the technician to work on a system. The user wants the system to ‘just work.’ Ask a Mac user, especially one who has recently switched from the PC, why they like their Mac and the answer will often be: ‘It just works!’ In the end, that’s really all most users care about.”

So often, those of us with a technical focus forget that that the computer is there to help the users get their work done, not for us to practice our craft and show off our technical acumen. If a computer system “just works,” and makes for happier, more productive users, we should celebrate and advocate, rather than disparage and reject that system.

I should point out that when I went to reply to his comment on facebook, he had deleted it.

Next post (who knows when that will be): “Are PCs REALLY cheaper?”

The Case for Working With Your Hands

This article by Mathew B. Crawford in the NY Times Magazine stuck a note with me as Dad and I have been discussing the subject of “College For All” lately.

The Case for Working With Your Hands – NYTimes.com.

It’s a great (and long) read, and oh-so-true. Simply put:  Skilled, hands-on-trades should have just as much value in our society as those that require “college learnin’.”

I remember when I first got down to the farm here after leaving the big corporate job.  I enjoyed mowing 30+ acres of grass, a job that took almost two weeks with the equipment we had available.  In some cases, it almost seemed when the job was finished, it was time to start again.

Someone asked me why I liked such a mundane task.

I responded, “At the end of the day, I can look behind me at all the mowed grass and be satisfied at the sight of a job I completed.  I know ‘I did that.’  No manager is going to come along and invalidate the work.  It’s done, and it’s mine.  No one can take it from me.”

Disclaimer, as Required by…Policy?

Ah, what a difference a few years makes.  After being away from the then-wild-and-new blogging scene for a few years in order to finish my master’s degree, I return to a world where employers (who used to not even know what the term “blog” meant) now have formal policies regarding personal blogging by their employees.

As a result of my enjoying the benefit of a regular paycheck from one such employer, and given my desire to continue to receive this bi-monthly benefit in the form of direct deposits to my bank account, I present to you, dear reader, the following required verbiage:

“The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog’s posts are Chuck Milam’s alone and are not representative, unless clearly and unequivocally stated, of those of any past, present, or future client or employer.”

Actually, that’s not half-bad.  I might keep that disclaimer around even after I move on to greener pastures.