The Nerd Handbook

I’m not usually one to post from other blogs, other sources, or to even link directly to a persons blog who I know nothing about. However, I was surfing the net the other night and I stumbled on something that just engrossed me in its explanations.

 

The first thing I noticed about this guys blog is that he is a mac user. Right there I usually throw up the red flag, however, in this case, I let it go and I read the article. Hell, I even read the followup article.

 

So, if you read what I write, if you know me in person, if you have talked to me online, or if you have ever heard my rants over the phone, then I implore you to click the two links below and see what this guy has to say.

Seriously, if you know anyone like me, or are just trying to figure me out so you can deal with me as a person, then this will be helpful.

 

Leave him a comment, leave ME a comment (Leaving the comment for ME would be the ideal situation.), but let me know what you think.

 THE NERDS HANDBOOK @ RandInRepose

THE CAVE @ RandInRepose

/Shakes fist violently

Curse you!
Curse ALL of you.
I was on facebook (Evil entity that it is) and I had solicited for some assistance.
I asked my “friends” for some help coming up with a topic. Something good to write about. Something decent.
And what did I get? In a word… Nothing.
No help at all.
You all suck.
That’s right. Every last person on the internet.
Sheesh.

Well, the lack of help actually inspired this trite little rant about having nothing to posts, so by failing, you technically win. But I’m not going to recognize it in every day conversation.

You can have your hollow victory.

I’m going to go find another can of root beer. I love that stuff.

Wow… she has a big butt.

Since we are getting ready to leave dry dock right now, I figure I’ll post a few pictures to give you an idea of what’s been taking place here since we went high and dry.

A little background on the ship.

We’re 240’ feet long, 58 feet wide, big, red, and heavy as hell.

So, with that in mind, I’ll get to the photo’s.

This is the side view of the Mackinaw out of the water. Most people never get to see something like this. Since there aren’t people in this picture, it’s difficult to give you an idea of how big she really is.

This is a view from the ground of her up on the blocks. It’s actually a somewhat scary sight when you are right there. 440,000 long tons up on cement blocks. It’s even work when you crawl underneath her.

Just sayin.

All I can really say here is “Dang, she has a nice butt.”

The ship uses something called an AZIPOD for propulsion. How big are these things? MONSTEROUS!

They crank out 4460 horse power a piece.

In relation to one of these, I’m tiny.

See? Told ya.

This right here is the bow thruster. It’s the entire reason we are here in the first place. The ice-knife assembly on the left there is actually made up of 117 hand cut and hand welded pieces. It’s the only one of its kind in existence.

And here is a picture of the ship at night. I thought it was kind of cool, so I figured I’d share.

Honestly, this is all there is for this post. I hope you enjoyed seeing the boat, a little of what we experienced while stuck out here in sturgeon bay.

However, this post is being finished right now, because we are underway and I want to go eat lunch.

Gimme the goods.

nVidia.

ATI.

Microsoft.

Blizzard.

Outrage.

Interplay.

Activision.

Id.

3DfX.

Heat.Net

The list goes on and on.

I would spend about 8 hours writing e-mails. I would word them very carefully. Each syllable was important. The place? The hours? The food to be enjoyed? The number of people? What each played? Our proximity to the nearest Taco Bell? Down to the finest letter I would define my event. And then I would ask, ever so politely, for some sort of corporate sponsorship.

Sometimes it didn’t work.

Sometimes it did. I didn’t have to buy shirts for almost 6 years because of it.

Sometimes it was a poster, others it was hardware, software, and vouchers for games.

Between the ages of 15 and 19 were the glory years for the LAN party.

I threw quite a few of them. Sometimes, it was 4 people, sometimes it was 32. It really depended on what was taking place. Where I lived. Where I worked. And what kind of budget I was working with.

The extent of this post is memories that I have in regards to those potent years as a teenager where I considered myself to be the ringmaster of my gaming life. However, before I get too far in to the meat and potatoes of the stories, I figure I’ll explain why I’m writing on this topic today.

Being in the Coast Guard, I spend time underway away from home, family, friends, and life in general. Being out here, I work with people, some of whom game. Most of us have stories of LAN parties or playing games at home. Well, we were playing Counter-Strike recently and after a few hours, and a half dozen people playing, we were reveling in how we haven’t had this much fun since se were teenagers. It was a small revival that reeked of nostalgia. We told stories of troubleshooting, gaming, being amped up on caffeine, being hopped up on tacos, and the heartbreak of  power outages and broken CD’s. Because of the nostalgia that I experienced, it caused me to reflect on what we were doing, what I had done, and some of the experiences that I had that forged who I am today as a gamer. Sure, I played World of Warcraft for 7 and a half years, but really, that wasn’t gaming. That was an addictive lifestyle that required way to many number crunches, DPS races, and socialization in a world that attempted to replace the one I live in. I enjoyed it, but it really can’t hold a candle to what I used to play and do.

So, let me share some stories of my gaming life and maybe you can smile, smirk, laugh, facepalm, or even just stare blankly asking what the hell I was thinking. Because there are a few of those.

Here we go.

I opened with talking about sponsors. Well, part of the LAN party experience is having the ability to say you are sponsored by someone. The ability to hand out prizes, gifts, and general garb  is a big selling point to your event. And thankfully, I had more than one opportunity to do that. One time, I petitioned Heat.Net to sponsor us, and they did. They sent me 25 t-shirts. That party was AWESOME! There were 12 of us in attendance, we each got a shirt, and I was able to hand a few out to friends, family, and have 4 left over for myself. That was what opened the sponsorship grab bag for me. I wound up writing 3DfX after a few weeks and asked for the same thing. Just a simple sponsorship for our hometown event, nothing huge. They complied. We received two joysticks, a soundcard, a mouse, three games, a stack of posters, t-shirts, hats, and stickers. A mother-lode as far as I was concerned. By far, that was the best haul we had ever had and it still stands as being the epitome of such. We never got more than that. But honestly, it’s okay. It gave us the idea of what sponsors could do for us. I still have one of the shirts. My brother still has the sound card. And I still have the pictures from the event. It was amazing. Held in a dusty basement of my best friend at the time Rocky Howell. Rocky, if you are reading this, hit me up, we can share some stories some time.

Getting free garb was always awesome.

While thinking about this, it leads me to remember my very first party. The party wasn’t the important part though. It was what took place about 4 days prior to the party. Thinking back on this 14 years later, I can’t help by hang my head, cover my face with my palm, and swear at the floor because I was a fool.

Let me paint the scene, my younger brother and I were sitting at home.  For some unholy reason, my saint of a mother opted to give us both permission to have our respective girlfriends over to the house that night. A movie you say? With a girl you say? Hells yeah… I’m in!

Well, the girls showed up, the popcorn was popped, and the Lion King was put in to the VCR. (For those who don’t know because you are a young whipper-snapper, a VCR played TAPES. It was what we used before DVD’s.) Suddenly, my saint of a mother whips out the most disconcerting line I can remember her ever saying. (At the time, it wasn’t a big deal, right now?.?.? I realize the significance of it). What did she say? She put on her coat, grabbed my dads hand and said “We’re going out for a while, be good, and have fun”. She turned out the lights and walked out the door.  With a creaking swing and a click, suddenly it was two boys, two girls, two bowls of popped corn, and a movie… In the DARK!…….UNDER BLANKETS!

WHAT THE HELL!!

Why did she do this?
Now, I was a bit of an innocent buffoon at the time, and I tried to sell the girls on the idea of the LAN party. I even set up a few computers so they could see what I was talking about.  At the time, I couldn’t figure out why, but my brother and his girlfriend were pissed.

Looking back, I think I finally figured out why.

Yeah… not my most shining moment right there.

/sigh

I really didn’t think that one through at the time.

I’ll give you a moment to sit back and let that story set in.

Alright… we good?

Good.

I figure this post has gone on for a while, so you get one more. Then I’ll wrap it up. So, I’ll try to make it a good one.

Leading up to a party that I helped throw at my friend Greg’s house, we were getting ready to make Root Beer. I know, I can hear you saying it already… “Home made root beer? That sounds DELICIOUS!”. Well, reader, it is. It is AMAZINGLY delicious. And we were going to make 20 gallons of the stuff. Sugar, water, flavor, and dry ice. Toss it in to the keg, put the bung in to the hole, and wait 24 hours. Tap it, and pour. DELICIOUS!

Well, the story takes an interesting twist. But it requires some back story. You see, Greg’s parents didn’t really keep the cleanest kitchen. It was clean, just really cluttered with lots of papers, dishes, tupperware, and carpet (carpet was on the floor, weird, I know. My grandma had that too. Hmmm… anyways.) . Now, there was a drop ceiling in this house. So it looked kinda like an office. Well, we had mixed in all the ingredients and we had just started to drop in the dry ice. A little bubbling was expected. After two pounds went in to the keg (A guess really, we didn’t know how much was actually needed), we put the bung in to the hole, grabbed a mallet and started beating it in. Done. Only 24 hours till the party and fresh home made root beer. No sooner than we had turned away from the keg, there was a loud BANG. The bung had popped out of the keg. There was a geyser of delicious root bear spewing from the keg. Straight up in to the air. Now, I know what you are thinking… A root beer geyser? That sounds AMAZING! And let me tell you, it was. But, there was enough force that it had blown out about 6 ceiling tiles, and there was root beer raining down EVERYWHERE in the kitchen.

I looked at Greg and I asked, “Greg, when does your mom get home?” We both eyed the clock. 20 minutes.

So, as any good child would do, we decided to cover it up!

We spend the next 19 minutes cleaning the kitchen. Dishes were in the dishwasher, papers were filed, stacked, or tossed. Windows washed. Ceiling tiles wiped down. Towels all over the carpet to soak up the mess. It was wild. We finished and had thrown the last of the towels in to the washer when the door opened. His mom walked in and saw the clean kitchen. Thinking we were sly, we said “Tuh-duh, we cleaned your kitchen”. She humored us for a moment and said thank you. But then stopped… looked around, and then looked at us both square in the eys and said “The keg exploded… didn’t it?”.

CRAP! How did she figure it out?

We said it did. She laughed, and then walked away. She was laughing the rest of the night at us. Not because it was funny, but because we were apparently retards. I don’t know really.

But, we salvaged about 5 gallons of delicious root beer. And we savored it the next night. It was mightily good.

Friends, readers, whomever…. I love gaming. I love the LAN parties. And I love the memories that are associated with those parts of my youth. I wouldn’t go back to live it again, because I’m happy as I am, but those were some mighty good days. I’m glad I got to live them.

Oh, and Adam and Jennifer… sorry about that.

The buttons… they almost press themselves.

Being stationed on the Mackinaw has been an adventure that I’m not sure I would relive if I had a choice. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. I enjoy my job. There is satisfaction to be found that I haven’t found anywhere else. I have job security. I have good pay. I have a wonderful home in a beautiful town with a large lawn. Honestly, I want for nothing here. But, this billet has been filled with ups, downs, bigger downs, and the occasional down that has posed as an up. Really, it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.

Until recently.

Honestly, the opener to this post has nothing to do with the post itself. I guess I was just looking for something that I could write that would have a little detail to it and give some insight to my recent triumph. But really, the story has nothing to do with the following.

Kinda.

I’m an engineer on the ship. And Engineer of the Watch, or EOW. I don’t work on the engines or the mechanical equipment, but I do monitor them for 4 hours at a time while I stand watch underway.

The process for becoming an EOW usually takes anywhere from 3 to 9 months. In my case, it took 2 years.

Now, before you decide to jump my case and give me a hard time for that, there are a few reasons it took so long and to make the long story short, I’m going to simply say that in the beginning it was my fault, but at the end it wasn’t. And I’m sticking to that.

Anywho, it’s a long qualification process. You are required to learn tons of information. Get 250 different signatures for sign offs, and sit through a large number of drills and an oral board.

The problem that I saw when I first reported aboard was that the information I was required to know was nowhere to be found. You could ask people and they might know one or two of the parameters. Another person might be able to show you how to reset a system. And the rest would simply say “I had to look it up, you can to.” Frankly, that attitude sucked. I didn’t like dealing with it. No one was willing to help someone that was supposedly a “shipmate”. You would think that helping someone get qualified would help your personal duty rotation. Make it better. Give you more time at home. Etc.

Here? Not so much.

So, for two solid years, I fought, kicked, screamed, studied, tore through manuals, wrote study information for myself, and compiled a veritable treasure trove of knowledge that if used properly, could probably overthrow a small third-world nation.

The collection of data was immense!

I had flash cards, study guides, work sheets, notes from meetings, recordings of conversations, print outs of e-mails, and copies of peoples personal thoughts included in this behemoth of a quall packet.

I was ready.

At least, I thought I was ready.

Kinda.

Maybe.

Crap.

I walked in to the board, passed the info that I knew. I answered the questions. I passed. (More or less) Then, I was qualified. Life got easier.

Now, anyone that really knows me knows that I’m not a jerk. I don’t usually do things to make peoples lives harder. I don’t like to put up a fight or make a fuss.

If I can do something that will make someone else’s life easier, then I will.

And about 2 months ago, I stumbled on something, quite by accident that would make everyone’s lives easier.

We have 12 new engineers reporting this season. That’s a lot of people to get qualified.  I really don’t want to wait 9 months for my duty rotation to get fat again, and that is where my idea came in to play.

I have this touch screen down in main control that isn’t being used. So, I built a computer and filled the hole. On the computer, I installed a web page. A very fancy touch screen style web page.

One that contained the essential essence of my monstrosity of a note collection.

Every stupid little stat, note, hard to find piece of information, manual, drawing, recording, and diagram that will be used in the process of getting qualified was placed on the that web page, and it was all done in an easy to use, shiny, attractive interface.

THIS WAS A GAME CHANGER!

I installed it. I grinned to myself being quite proud of my work. And then I walked away.

I waited.

I watched.

Three days passed……. Nothing.

Hmm, “maybe people don’t realize what is sitting here” I thought.

So, I walked down to main control three or four times a day and played with it. I asked questions. I took more notes. I probed people for information on what they would like to see available to them.

I spent another week programming and compiling data and then I redeployed it.

I waited.

Suddenly, it happened.

I walked by Main Control on my way to fix something that some uneducated fool had broken (again!), and I saw someone sitting in front of my terminal. I stopped and watched from outside the room.

They were pushing buttons.

They stopped, read, and then wrote something down.

They pushed a few more buttons, stopped, read, and then wrote something down.

SOMEONE WAS USING IT!

I smirked and walked away.

On my way back to my office, I walked by Main control again and there was a different person repeating the process that the first had done.
Over the course of the next few days, I had noticed that there was almost always someone sitting in front of that terminal using it for information, reference, and compiling their own study information for their qualls and for their board.

My frustration at my situation over the last two years, in a matter of moments, suddenly went away.

I had suffered through something that had allowed me to design and distribute a resource to the crew that is already decreasing qualification time.

I’m receiving praise from my supervisors. Even the one that doesn’t like me.

I realized earlier today that since seeing this, I haven’t scowled at my job. (Other things? Yes. My job? No.)

I guess the long story can be summed up in a few short sentences.

I made something that made the lives of my shipmates easier. I decided to take the route of helping those around me, and I’m seeing the benefits and reaping the rewards.

Honestly? It feels good.

Extra… Extra…

The air carried a slight breeze. The mist from the morning haze caused my arms to raise small goose bumps that stiffened the short hairs. The hum of the fluorescent lighting in the hallway of the apartment complex invited my mind to vibrate with an uneasy reminder of how tired I was. My fingers were sticky from the sweat and the ink while my palms were dry after having their moisture leached by the paper. The two crumpled one dollar bills in my pocket from earlier in the night were still on my mind. Just one more hour until I could hand them over to the cashier and receive what I had been waiting for since last Saturday night. I blinked twice and shook my head as I ran down the hallway. My footsteps pounding, my heart racing. I swung around the corner, my hip violently smashing in to the imitation siding of the wall as I dropped the package, and pushed harder to maintain my momentum. The stairway loomed ever closer that led in to the early morning light. The pinks and purples of the clouds were vibrant enough that I could almost hear the colors. As I rushed towards the stairs and broke past the threshold of the enclosed hallway into the chilly open air, my mind snapped back, almost like a taught rubber band, to the urgency I was feeling. Only 12 stairs left on this stretch. I had to get back to the street before my ride came back in to view. The rhythmic thumping of the old stereo getting closer told me that this was going to be close.

Let me back this story up about 6 hours while turning back the clock about 15 years. I used to deliver newspapers. Not some little piddly route where I rode a bicycle and threw them at doors (I did do that for a while though), but a real paper route. Hundreds of papers, late at night, driving in a car. It started with my dad. When I was 14, he woke me up at midnight and told me to get in to the car. It was full of newspaper bundles already and he was ready to go. He just needed some help I suppose. We drove around SilverdaleWashington for the next 5 hours delivering the Seattle P.I. to various houses, apartments, nursing homes, and businesses. I would do the running. He would drive. And at the end of the evening, I would receive my wages of 5 dollars, a quick trip to Taco Bell for a crunchy taco, and then home where I could get 3 hours of sleep in preparation for church the next morning.

Looking back, it was really some of the best times I think I had with my dad. It was just us. We were busy, we worked hard, and there was nothing to stop us from conversing as people. As father and son. And if for some reason things got awkward, there was always another paper to be delivered that would break the tension while I was out of the car.

This ritual took place each Saturday night. After about 6 months of it however, I was told that my older brother Ryan needed assistance on his paper route. I changed vehicles, and I got to learn an entirely new set of 249 houses to remember. This time, I was delivering papers on the lower east side ofBremertonWashington. The big differences here were the music, the size of the vehicle (I went from a Chevy Celebrity to a Ford Mustang), and the conversation.

I honestly don’t remember a lot of what we talked about while I was delivering papers with Ryan. He was my older brother, and as much as I wanted to be like him, he intimidated me a little. I don’t know why.

At the end of the evening, he would pay me $10 and we would still get the taco. But it felt different. Not bad. Just different.

After a few months of showing up with my father to load papers, I found myself in a spot that made me feel kind of proud. The man who was over our paper delivery region was named Malcolm. He was kind of old as I recall, but he was nice. As I was standing around as a 15 year old punk in front of the “40 Thieves”, he told me to climb up in to the truck and start throwing out bundles of papers to the older men on the ground. And so I did. I threw almost a thousand bundles of papers each night that I did this. And for my efforts I received two crumpled one dollar bills. These bills would be used to pay for the tacos at the end of the night. A fool’s treasure. A simple treat for whomever I was working with. I had often felt like I was being paid too much for the work I did, so I looked for a way to carry part of the fiscal load of the evening. The tacos were how I did it.

So, after having delivered papers with my dad, my brother, and worked for a creepy yet kind old man for a few dollars each week, the paper route thing suddenly encountered a twist that would change my life for the next year.

I started working with Dedra.

What does this mean? Well, Dedra and I were much closer in age than anyone else I had worked with previously, and we were both in high school / junior high at the time. The pay wasn’t going to be any different. We were doing the Silverdale paper route (which we both knew since I had started on it and Dedra had been helping my dad since I left to work with Ryan). We had similar tastes in music. And Dedra had recently acquired a driver’s license. All in all… this was a combination that could work well… or would be written down in the history books as one of the worst things ever to be unleashed on the streets of Silverdale.

Luckily for us… it turned out to be the former.

It worked well!

Dedra and I would play games while we were out delivering papers.

We would see how fast we could finish the route.

We would see how many papers we could throw and hit the doorstep from the car.

We would see who could sing the loudest while we were delivering to the nursing homes.

We would see who could drop their papers at the different apartment complexes the fastest and be back to the corner first.

We would get bored and do the paper route backwards.

We would pick a random spot in the middle and start the route from there and work the entire night from a different point of reference.

We would see how much caffeine we could get in to our systems and then just gibber like fools for the next 4 hours.

This would happen each night of the week. We had picked up the daily route somehow. I don’t really know how that happened. Though, I was still delivering weekends with Ryan.

Dedra and I would talk, share stories, discuss concerns, talk about girls or boys, who we liked, what our fears were, how school was going, what we were doing in seminary, and so forth. We were good friends. It was enjoyable. And at the end of each night, we would sit in the car just outsideShari’s and eat our taco. And if for some reason we had reason to celebrate, we would hunker down and go IN to Shari’s and enjoy a drink and some Tucson Nacho’s. Really, I think some of the best times of my youth were spent in that car with my sister. The music was loud. The work was hard. The conversation was good. And the opportunity to be friends with my father, my siblings, and just experience something like that after dark was one of the key periods of my youth growing up.

Would I do it now of my own accord? Probably not.

Will I do it 5 years from now when my son can benefit from it? Quite possibly. I’m not sure.

But I do know that the smell of newsprint, the feel of dirty sweaty fingers, and the tangy cool taste of a Taco Supreme at 4am make for some of my favorite memories of my life before marriage.