Basic Scuba Equipment

I decided to pursue my scuba certification as I’m headed to the South Pacific for a few weeks and the diving there is supposed to be beyond compare. Tonight marks my second of three pool dives before heading to the open water of Strawberry Quarry near Grove City, PA. After doing all the required reading and the first two classroom sessions I couldn’t wait to hit the water. The pool classes work on learning basic skills, primarily focused on what to do if things go wrong. It is important to remain calm as rushing to the surface when you are 100 feet down can have dire consequences. I was able to try all the fun stuff like using my dive partner’s spare regulator, feeling what it’s like to run out of air, losing my mask and getting it back on and cleared and trying to stay neutrally buoyant at varying depths. The best part was having a little time to just swim around and look up at the surface from the bottom. Even in an indoor pool it was an amazing view. I can’t wait to see all the fun stuff out in the open ocean.

If you were to choose someone to be your life narrator, who would it be and why? This question came to me on a whim last night as I was watching Deadliest Catch on one of the Discovery channels. The show is narrated by Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs and the voice over for Ford F-150 commercials.

Mike has a very strong, manly voice that works well with these shows and the marketing of the F-150. At first I thought this manly quality of his voice was my reason for choosing him as my life narrator. Then I got to thinking about who I am and how that relates. I am a man and while I enjoy watching fishermen getting tossed around on the high seas and watching Mike go into the muckiest realms of society I’m not really an F-150 kind of guy. So what else is about Mike’s voice? The other side of Mike is that he is very down to earth and very approachable and it comes through in the way he talks. These are qualities that I feel are a little closer to who I am and what make Mike Rowe my choice for Scott’s life narrator.

So here’s your challenge: Who is you life narrator? Now, go find a good clip of their voice and post it in the comments with your reasons why you chose this person. When listening to your clip or others, video or audio, close your eyes and really listen. Picture the voice talking about you or whomever you’re reading about. I’d love to hear your life narrator.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpR9dP929LE&hl=en]

A few friends have recently announced their pending membership in the Daddy Club. This got me to thinking about what makes fatherhood so special. I always feel like it is difficult to explain, but there are little moments that just make life wonderful. This is one of them…

This week I got to spend some good quality time with my two year-old daughter, Juliana, as Jen was in Germany for work. She actually stayed at Jen’s folks the first two nights as I had school. We visited my folks one night and then Jen’s folks stopped by again last night. These visits were so she could spend time with her grandparents and distract her from M… o… m… m… y… being away.

So tonight, the last night Jen is away, was actually our first night to just hang out. I picked Juliana up from school and we headed home. It was so nice outside that we didn’t actually make it into the house for at least a half-hour after getting home. She played on her swing set and tromped through the tulips insisting that they all “Open now!”. We came in and I was getting her dinner ready when she decided that we needed to do her dishes, all her food containers and juice cups from the past two days. She pulled the chair over, hopped up on it and proceeded to hold each item under water and then handed it to me to wash. We worked like a well-oiled machine. After dinner I could tell that she was getting a little tired and upset as little ones her age are prone to do. She started to pout and I got the sense that she was looking for someone who wasn’t around. She then looked up at me and raised her arms. So I scooped her up and she wrapped her arms tight around me and snuggled on my shoulder. Her mood quickly went from sad to happy and it was so deeply satisfying to feel so needed. She picked her head up off my shoulder, turned towards me and said, “Its just you and me Daddy.”

Wait!!! Wait a just a minute here!!! This is not your usual Rick Roll. This is more like The Ultimate Rick Roll. Hmmmm,Scott and Annthat may not keep you around, but indulge me for a minute. You’ll notice that all of the words in this post are links to everbody’s favorite 80s star (yes I’m using the term ‘star’ very
loosley). Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to discover the ones that are not Rick Roll’s. Feel free to look at the source code or to use any means you deem appropriate to decipher the hidden message. Discover the hidden message and be the first to post it back in comments and you will win the admiration
of well no one really, but you can pass the meesage along to its intended recipient.

TwitterThe classic post about twitter starts with something along the lines of 30% of folks who try Twitter simply don’t get what its all about. There are also various posts on novel uses and Twitter etiquette. Twitter is a mini-blog, a glorified chat-room, a TXT tool and many other things, but I believe its most important description is that of group consciousness.

Once you use Twitter for a little while you begin to get to know people in a way that accelerates relationships. Within a group of twitterers you become part of a larger ongoing conversation and an observer of many smaller ones. It is in these smaller conversations that you learn little tidbits about new and old friends. You may not be actively participating in the conversation but you are allowed to see into it in such a way that provides the intimacy of having actually participated.

The wonderful thing is that real world gatherings become a continuation of the conversation, as if you all had been sitting around the table together for the past few days or weeks. When the crowd is larger I sometimes find myself quietly observing and just soaking up the dialog, injecting occasionally, just like I would on Twitter. The whole group is “in” on everything. The group interacts in a way that is really unique to a large group. Everyone has an understanding of everyone else on a level that is just a bit deeper than only normal conversation provides. Each person has had numerous conversations with everyone else, whether they realize it or not. There are all types of personalties, but from my view and interactions I haven’t seen too many personality clashes. Everyone not just gets along, but really seems to feed off of each other as we have learned along the way what each has to offer and what the best way is to interact on an individual level.

I do loosely follow a rule about who I follow or allow to follow my tweets. Generally, I have to have had some real world interaction with the person. Of course there are exceptions, I will include folks who know others I follow. I have a bit of disdain for people who insist on following thousands of people. I really wonder what it is they are up to as it would appear impossible to follow any sort of thread at all. Then again, that is just my view. I am sure they have their reasons.

The point is that Twitter is not limited to my uses. It is a simple flexible tool that has the potential to reach a little deeper than it appears on the surface. How do you use Twitter? What do you get out of it? I’d love to read your comments.

@scottsweep

I was picked last today… again*. Unfortunately it wasn’t a soccer game, but real life. I was let go from my current job. After one of my previous posts I realized what the adult version of childhood insecurity really feels like. More tangible concerns than wondering what folks think about me. How am I going to provide for my family? While I struggled for a few days to come to terms with losing my job I emerged somewhat renewed and excited about the new opportunities that lay ahead. I’m not sure what exactly happened. I should have been angry and upset. I certainly didn’t agree with some of the logic involved, but it did force me to take a good look at myself. When I did I realized that I could’ve done a few things differently, but that ultimately it was not my decision or my actions that left me unemployed. I could live with that. But still something more lingered insider.

In the following weeks, what I truly struggled with was beyond just a job, but a genuine sense of loss. A year ago I was the first employee at this small startup, taking a huge pay cut to have a chance to be a part of building something from the ground up. I put my life and family on hold, dropped out of my masters program and worked 12 and 16 hour days, every day for four months straight. I was wholeheartedly invested in this company because I felt like I was finally building something worthwhile, something that I could be proud of at the end of the day. The sense of loss was deeper than I expected, maybe almost as bad as losing a dear pet or something of that nature. I hadn’t realized my emotional attachment to this job until I noticed the absence of something. Back in March I went into the ER with stomach pains. Many tests, medications and months later and still no clear diagnosis and no relief. Then I lost my job and somewhere in the following weeks I just stopped noticing the pain because it was gone. To say I was stressed at this job is obviously an understatement. The pressures at a very small company are immense, every action or inaction impacts the very existence of the company. For several months I was able to channel that stress into the creative process of building a new product, but for various reasons the product was put on hold and the stress needed a new target.

So what is the grand lesson I’m supposed to have learned and now impart from this experience? I haven’t a clue. Was I foolish to invest so much into something I didn’t really own or have control over? Perhaps, but restraining that energy probably would not have yielded any better results and probably would’ve felt a little dishonest.  Justin K. has declared September as the “No Woe-Is-Me” month and I think that honoring this idea has helped me gain some perspective (thanks Justin). Losing a job is a tough ordeal. I’d like to think that I’ve learned some things about myself and what is reasonable to emotionally invest into work, but man have I got this great idea for a startup…

* ok, not today, really a few weeks ago

Doctors have long been the most revered members of society. The medical profession is very noble in its aims to cure and ease suffering. Without the medical arts we as humans would be far worse off. We hold doctors up on high because of their abilities to see the human body in ways the average person does not. But what is it that doctors really do? They heal people, the cure disease, they enable longer life. All true, but in short they are fixers. They specialize in debugging the human body. So why should software engineers matter more to society? Computers and technology have been a boon to humanity for many obvious reasons, but the software engineers are more than just fixers, they are creators. They have created applications and tools that have become so ubiquitous that we don’t just take them for granted, we don’t even notice them anymore.

Picture the scene in Saving Private Ryan with a room full of women in the typing pool tapping out death notifications. The skill required then was immense. Typos were very costly and speed was of utmost importance. Fast forward to today (or even 20 years ago) and the word processor. Here is an application, created by software engineers, that brought typing skills to the masses. No longer did you need to futz with ribbons and jammed keys and correction fluid. Even the need for good spelling and proper grammar has been lifted. Some may say this dumbed us down a bit, but I stand on the side of the argument that says it has freed us to do something else with a time and mental ability. Writing a blog for instance. Sure without doctors I may contract some disease and suffer and lose time and mental ability, but the doctor is only preserving those two, not adding capacity. Software Engineers have created something that in turn increases everyone’s potential to create something else.

Look at the education required of a doctor. College, medical school, internship, residency.  A great deal of education is invested in these folks because we as a society justifiably place a high premium on human life. Yet a software engineer does not even require a degree to practice in a field that respects and adds immense potential to the value of life. The irony is that the doctor trains that long to avoid making one mistake that could cost one life, to be the best fixers possible. Yet some of the most helpful tools out there have come from software engineers who don’t even have a degree.

The point of this post is not about more respect for software engineers, but to emphasize the contribution they make to us all. Doctors keep the machine running, fix things when they break and implement maintenance programs. Software engineers do all this and more, they enable the machine to do new things, things it didn’t have time to contemplate before. Which do you think is the greater contribution to society?

A few horrible acts of animal cruelty (and here) came to light yesterday that really had a number of folks justifiably enraged. I wholeheartedly agree that these acts were awful and should be condemned in every way possible. What struck me though was how much the first event stirred folks up. Recently a woman was kidnapped and held prisoner for a week of torture, rape and other abuse, yet there was little to nothing on this in my little view of the blogosphere. This poor dog was tortured and killed and it became a call to arms for animal rights. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t evoke this emotion, but what is about the kidnapped woman in WV that doesn’t evoke that emotion?

Perhaps part of the problem is that as a society we’ve become somewhat numb to the “if it bleeds it leads” aspect of traditional media. It is not that we don’t care, it is that we hear about it often enough and we become desensitized – “oh, there was another murder in some bad neighborhood”. Its almost come to the point that its shocking and surprising when we don’t hear about someone being shot or a bad neighborhood making progress towards safer streets. There is also certianly the case that we as humans have more control over our actions. We are capable of rationalizing the consequences of our decisions and therefore get what we deserve when things go wrong. But what did this woman really do wrong? I’m not sure, but it could have been as simple as stopping at the wrong gas station at the wrong time. In this small slice of time was she any less innocent than a kitten that wondered into the wrong yard?

The way we view animals or, I believe, more specifically in this case, the way we view our pets is the critical catalyst for the call to arms. We love our pets, they are a part of our family. I always make a point of stopping by the pet stores to check out the cats for adoption in the hopes that maybe we’ll get one more. Of course my wife is always quick to remind me about the cat to person ratio in any household and crossing the fine line into crazy-cat-persondom, but that is another story. The point is that our pets are in our homes, part of our lives and love us unconditionally because we provide for them and accept them as part of our family, magnifying their perceived innocence. So when some degenerate attacks one of these loved ones it is easy to project that offense to our little dependent house-mates.

The question now is how can we get that sense of outrage back in to the causes of human suffering? This is not to take anything away from how we jump up to defend our pets, but what does it take to evoke that same emotion in local instances of human suffering? What do you think?

So I decided to take an undergrad soccer class this semester, mostly to get in shape and help improve my skills for weekly pick-up games. I realized going into it that I was going to be playing with kids literally half my age. I don’t really think of myself as old by any means and 36 is the new [insert some hip cool age here]. Then the reality of playing with 18-20 year olds struck me as we were picking teams. After about two picks I knew the odds were not in my favor. Nobody wants the old guy on their squad. As this was happening I was quietly laughing to myself on the inside. I thought I should have felt all that youthful insecurity, but it never came. Nothing, I felt nothing, but amusement as this classic childhood amalgamation played out. All a part of growing up. What played out on the field amazed me even more. Some of those who had been captains and stars of their high school teams just wanted to show off and try to score from mid-field or just boom the ball down field to no one in particular on goal kicks. Thats when I knew how much getting picked last could have impacted them – here they were with skill and talent, but screaming look at me, help me validate myself. I’m looking forward to the social observations that I never expected this class could provide. I was amused at being the last pick and perhaps I spared someone who’s skin had not yet had a chance to thicken.

I’ve come to a better understanding of the war. Ironically it started with comments by Hillary Clinton. What struck me was that for the first time I can recall I actually agreed with something she had to say. She was speaking at a rally and made the comment that the troops had not failed, but that the Iraqi government had failed. I think that on several levels this is both accurate and unsurprising. Our military has not successfully rebuilt a country since WWII and those were long arduous tasks at best. Our military is ill-equipped to deal with nation-building. Lets face it armies, by design, destroy nations, not build them and ours is the best ever at the former. The Iraqi’s have failed themselves, but it is not because of a lack of desire. I firmly believe that the vast majority of Iraqi’s want peace more than anything else these days. The history, culture and experience of the Iraqi people is conspiring against them. What is so difficult for the typical American to understand is that the typical Iraqi values family and the group before self. This is such a foreign concept to a western civilization that prizes the accomplishments and rights of the individual. For us to try to install such a government that puts the individual first is ignoring the fundamental beliefs of the culture we are attempting to help. Of course there’s going to be friction, even if Iraqi’s shared 99% of western beliefs, but when our foundation is such a polar opposite we can only expect failure. That there are such myriad cacophony gelling into insurgency should not come as a shock.

Reporter Richard Engel’s War Diaries brings to light another important concept that should be more obvious. Engel is interviewing troops who make the point that you can’t support the troops and not the war. The two are not mutually exclusive. The troops are, in essence, the war or perhaps our extended American-ness in the middle of the Iraqi conflict. Another enlightening moment comes from what Engel saw on the ground during the famous scene of Iraqi’s pulling down Saddam’s statue. His prescient take was a group of Shiites finally in power after 1300 years under Sunni rule. He saw the first strike in the Iraqi civil war. We are now caught up in that war with both sides trying to play us to their advantage. Add in the mix of foreign insurgents who’s only goal is to disrupt any potential progress and it is simple to see that any of the current and former plans are somewhat naive.

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