Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cultures, pt 3

The one thing I'll get to, before going to discuss my perspective of UT as a student, was one overall message that was relayed to me: "You are just a number". Hey, it was one of the biggest schools in the country, of course you're just a number. And, mind boggling as it was, our student ID was our SOCIAL SECURITY numbers! This was of course, before the concept off the [finger quotes] internet [finger quotes} or identity theft was even a dream on the horizon.

You are just a number. I was having a tough time of it in sophmore electrical engineering. The flush out course logic design (designing the gates that flip "1" or flip "0"). I was at my wit's end and I thought, "Hey, I paid my tuition. I want someone to explain to me why they're trying to crush us." So I made an appointment with an associate dean of engineering. I will always appreciate his candor. He basically said:
  • Yeah, your sophmore year is a flushout year. You can hide in calculas, english, chemistry and so on your freshman year, but we try to weed you out by the end of your sophmore year
  • Because, we don't have enough teachers for the higher level classes. We have to take anyone with a C average OR graduated in the top 50% of their class. We have too many kids here
  • Hey, if you can't hack it here, there are other colleges in Texas where you can finish off your degree. We had to accept you, because it is mandated by state law. But state law doesn't say anything about us having to keep you here
For an (failing, sophmore) engineer I could accept and appreciate that candor. I just had to grow a bigger set and get tough. And you know what? I did. But the reason I tell that story is that later in life, I joined a Very Big Computer company, where many people quit a the 5 or 10 year mark because they feel just like a number. Hey man, I can survive as just a number! This June will be my 26th year as "just a number" in the machine.

Okay, back to football. Believe it or not, I lived for 3 years in Jester East. The first year, what I call the terrifying year, we were on the 3rd floor of East. The 3rd-5th floors were unique in that half the floors were for athletes. What was terrifying was having a drunk, chiseled, mean-as-snake starting linebacker going down the hallway banging on your doors telling you to wake up and come out (I think he wanted to whoop someone). And you sit there, your heart beating 100 miles an hour hoping he doesn't get even meaner and try to smash the door down. These were the Fred Aker years where the defense was just freakin incredible with many games ending in the opposing teams with less than 150 yds total offense.

Course, Fred Akers was a prick. But, he was a winning prick, and that's all that matters. I saw several misdeeds that were quietly hushed up. One of best linebackers was driving a Volvo 740 (of all things) and got into a fender bender in the parking lot of Jester. The insurance showed that the registered owner of said Volvo was some state legislator. We're just like everyone else, just smarter about it.
Most of the football players basically ignored us. Friday night, before a home game, was a site to behold. Many players strolled down our hallway with one woman under each arm. I kept thinking, "These dainty sorority girls (white) wouldn't give a second look at these black guys back home. But here, they are studs...and whatever studs want, studs get."

My second thought, "Dudes, save up some energy for the game. We need ya."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cultures, pt 2

Okay, so here we go. A quick summation of my background, which comes into play later:
  • I was born overseas, but immigrated to Houston when I was 4. Thus, I started kindergarten in fairly "ghetto" Houston.
  • I have a nice Southern accent to go with my very non-Caucasian face (comes into play much later).
  • My father ended being a professor for 40 years at the University of Houston, or as we used to call it "Cougar High"
  • My entire sports upbringing was based on the 3 national channels and the two local UHF channels. I learned the rules of football through TV games.
Now, here is what happens. In high school, I was a pro football fan (Luv Ya Blue!) and had no real concept of the big rivalries or history of college football. I was neither a Longhorn or Aggie fan. In fact, when I asked about going to college, my father basically said, "Pick UT or A&M. They have money for their engineering colleges. You'll get more out of them." I was taken aback by my father, who was to rise to full tenured professor in Electrical Engineering.

So, I applied to both schools - A&M and UT. Back then, the joke was if you could chew gum and walk at the same time, you got accepted (1982). The truth was if you graduated in the top HALF of your graduating class and had at least a C, the schools had to accept you. Thus, I got acceptance letters to both UT and A&M. I had a good friend, a year ahead of me, at A&M who was hoping to get into vet school. She invited me up to visit and check out the campus. Of course being my friend, she was trying to recruit me. In high school, I had taken a school (extended) field trip to UT and thought it was "hilly", and that's pretty much it.

So I did my OV (heh) to A&M and my friend was taking me for a tour. But of course, she had to stress to me a couple of times, "Please DO NOT WALK ON THE GRASS. It's very, very disrespectful." Ummm, okay? As we were touring around I was thinking:
  • Really, really flat.
  • Pretty bland. When was this place built? Like 10 years ago? They all look like office buildings from the 60's or 70's.
  • Seriously, don't walk on the GRASS!
And then as we were walking, I saw in the distance an Corp of Cadet guy walking with his girlfriend - holding hands. They came upon a single cadet, the single cadet saluted the first one, there were an exchange of pleasantries, and then suddenly the second cadet fell to the ground doing push-ups. Of course, this was an upperclassman "educating" a lower ranked cadet. But I thought, here he is being Mr. Bigshot in front of his girlfriend. I understand this, most of them don't end up going into the military? They only pretend at being a soldier? So let me get this straight.
  • You wear a uniform with no intention of going into the military
  • You're not going into the military, you just pretend to play soldier like we did as little kids
  • So this fake soldier orders another fake soldier down to the ground to do push-ups so that he can show off to his girlfriend?
  • And people applaud this?
  • What is this? High school or grown up college?
  • Hunh, I don't think I can go to a school where people pretend to be soldiers, they celebrate pretending to be soldiers, and one fake soldier can tell another fake soldier what to do.
Pass. Hey, let's go to UT!
This of course, was before I discovered the concept of "frats" and how they can make kids drink so much they die of alcohol poisoning (dude, that's not cool to die on us dude! - totally not cool!)
And I was so...ummm, lackadaisical about going to UT, I passed up freshmen orientation and just showed up to school and went to the Erwin center to get classes a week before school started.
Oh yeah, for those keeping score. In 1982 the cost of school was:
  • $4 a semester hour. Thus a 16 hour semester was $64
  • Sports package was.....$150-$160?
  • Other fees (including the bus and whatever) was about $240
  • Books....about $250
  • So one semester was: $64+$160+$240+$250 = $714?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cultures, pt 1

Believe it or not, I've been putting out blog postings on a football blog.  It's crazy.  I've done one a few years ago and this year the recruitment of high school football has gone nuts in Texas.

For those of you who don't understand college football recruitment and eligibility, leave a question and I'll try to answer it for you.

Most of you have a two state colleges that vehemently hate each other.

"Our school is better than yours!"

The difference is that I've gone to both rival schools in Texas, so I have a "cultural" perspective on both schools.

And since it's gotta be obvious, the schools were The University of Texas and Texas A&M.

Since I've already gone through most of the effort to write the postings and posted some of them, I'm just gonna cut-and-paste them into here.  It's called code re-use, something a few of you might know about:

I've been debating on whether to write this fan post for a few weeks now, as I've become SUCKED into the drama that is luring of young men to your university. And yes, it does sound as filthy as that. I often visit the GBH, especially after man-made (Alabama) or child-made (Malikimas) disasters that have befallen them. Those from GBH reading this are muttering "bastard" as they read this...but aren't you trolling visiting us as well?

But it's too early for that.

As some of you know or don't know, from previous postings, I have two degrees: An electrical engineering degree from UT and a masters in computing science.....from A&M. I'm one of the rare folks that has spent extended time in both places. I think it's fair to say that I can....speak fairly proficiently about the cultures of both schools. Since most of you have gone to UT, I won't spend too much time talking about UT culture - the positives and negatives. I'll just spend time explaining what it's like being a stranger in a strange land.

For those Aggies reading this, and hopefully later posts, who have their blood pressure raised, the only people who can criticize any of my comments are those who have gone to school (for more than a semester!) and been in my shoes.

Otherwise, bite me. You're on a Longhorn blog.

I'll stop here - hopefully there's enough interest in this subject matter.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Well that went quickly

I was taking a look at the old blog around January 1st.  And I saw that in 2014, I only recorded 15 posts.  I had thought of shutting it down, but you the thing you have in the background that has weeds creeping around it, starting to take it over, you think, "Well, if you didn't throw it out when the city had it's junk pickup day, then you must want it for a reason."

So I googled and found that in 2015, there are 251 non-weekends.  So I set myself a goal on a posting-a-day, which I know I can't possibly reach.  But you have to have a goal to even get moving.

Please go to the polling gizmo in the sidebar and tell me how you discovered I was blogging again.  I've been pruning my RSS reader, looking at the last update people made to their blog (uhhh, 3 years since last update? You are officially retired).  So, I wonder how many people looked at my blog and did the same thing?  Curious.

Some of the reasons my output was so low:
  • Some of the thoughts I had were "short".  Ideas that weren't fully thought out and had some sort of conclusions - don't care anymore
  • Some of the ideas weren't linked in a long running series - don't care anymore
  • The self-imposed pressure of putting something out there - don't care anymore.  I may make 251 and I may make 80.  Whatever
  • I started some series, and then got weighed down and felt dumb for not finishing up - don't care anymore
  • Damned Facebook is easier to fire off small one-paragraph missives - [shrug]
Nice my Scottish/UK reader is still there.  Weren't you the one in the drug/medical biz?

Whatever, you don't have to answer.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Crowded House

The Boy has always been a good sport, when it came to not fun things like medical or dental.  We kinda knew from the get-go that he was going to need braces.  But you know how you hope, that by magic, something you knew in your gut would just go your way?  Yeah, that and his teeth ($$$).

When we got him, we noticed that his teeth were very well aligned.  No crooked teeth.  However, they were TIGHT.  They were lined up just right next to each other.  And then, we noticed that he had an overbite.  That overbite slightly enhanced that, while his lower teeth were tight and lined up with each other straight, they the whole lower jaw of teeth was slightly bowed inward. 

And then, it became more obvious.  As his teeth were growing, the crowding of his teeth all in unison was causing the semicircle to bow inward in order to put up with the pressure.

But first, he had other more pressing issues like giant tonsils that were causing him to choke on food when he ate.  That had to come out first.  And anyway, we were talking about baby teeth - so that could wait, awhile.

Over time, baby teeth started falling out and then his child's dentist suggested that it was finally time to consult a orthodontist.  I asked the ortho if it was too early.  He said yes and no.  You don't want to start directly controlling baby teeth as they will fall out.  But you do want to shape the mouth so that the jaw is aligned correctly for the permanent teeth to come in correctly, reducing the complexity of what will eventually have to be wired up.

First, it was obvious that he had too many teeth for the size of his mouth.  It was getting to the point where some teeth were growing behind other teeth [shudder].  So two actions were taken.  First, his jaw was widened.  They wired in an adjustable contraption on the roof of his mouth.  For 10 days, I took a small pin and each night "cranked" the separator 5 times.  His jaw only hurt the first night, but after that he was a trooper.  They only do the top for a few reasons.  First, it's not in the way of the tongue.  Second, there's a natural split/growth plate at the roof of the mouth.  That split keeps growing and widening as the kid gets older.  Third, the lower jaw gets "hints" from the body that it needs to grow to match the top.  So as you widen the top, the lower jaw catches up to match up - which it did. 

Then, he had to have "excess" teeth pulled in order to make way for permanent teeth, which may also have to be pulled when it comes time for the braces. 

We went for our every few month checkup and he showed me the very first pictures from probably 20 months ago.  When his mouth was closed, you saw no lower teeth whatsoever.  Just gums.  And now, you can see teeth, although crooked.  They took x-rays and it showed:

His baby canines (RED) have to come out because they aren't loose.  He said that the permanent canines (BLUE) have the longest path to travel, from near the nasal cavity.  And since they will take a long time to traverse, the baby canines aren't in a hurry to get out (they aren't wiggly).  But because they aren't in a hurry to get out, they may cause the permanent teeth to say, "Oh, this space occupied? Let's try going left/right", which would lead to an even bigger disaster when it comes time for braces.  The ortho said he's seen the permanent canines go across the front teeth looking for a home.

So the REDs need to be pulled in order to give the BLUEs a nice open gap to drop into.  If you look lower off-center-left you can see where he has two teeth almost growing behind each other.  One tooth is shielded in front by about 40% by the other tooth.  Those will have to wired up to move them around.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Thoughts with no scientific or factual backing.

I was thinking of how women and men have different set of friends.  With the recent visit of Wifey's cousin, and her various venting she does, it made me think of it even more.  She has only a few close friends, and with Wifey they have a special relationship since childhood.  The cousin used to vent ALOT about her good friends - how they took her for granted, how they constantly mistreated her.  I once said, "Then why are you still friends with these girls?"  She just kinda shrugged. 

That fell into my theory about how many women I know pick only one or two close friends and that's it.  The rest are regulated as friends, but not BFF, tell you my deepest dark secret friends.  Here's my handy dandy chart:

Many women I seem to know have the one or two friends that are besties.  These are the women they tell their deepest secrets to and are supposed to be there for them, blah, blah, blah.  However, I think this leads to more sniping and fighting.  One gal I know is not quite speaking to her best friend because one or the other didn't get back to each other "soon enough" when one left a phone message.

Guys....uhhh, we don't want to express our feelings to other guys.  We don't say, "Well so-and-so did this to me and my feelings are really hurt.  Should I feel that way?"  Guys usually say sheepishly, "Yeah, I screwed up.  I blah-blah-blah."

My guy friend solar system looks like this:

We don't have one or two identified as best friends, cause you know, that would be all mushy and so forth.  The thing I've been thinking is that Wifey is more like a guy when it comes to girlfriends than the other women I observe.  That of course proves I'm making a unscientific generality. 

She has a very, very old BFF.  She met her while she was suffering through her marriage with her first husband and then they did everything together as singles.  And even when she met and married me, they hung out.  But, I don't think she's seen her in over a year...and to her, that's okay.  Her BFF is busy and so is she.  No hurt feelings she just says, "She'll see her when she gets a chance."

And guys, of course, don't want to say that they actually "miss" someone.  I was talking to one of my friends about moving to Hawaii two years ago.  And then when I was starting to waver about that, he said to me, "You know Johnny, I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want to cause any problems.  But you're my best friend and I would miss you."


Never heard anyone say that to me know that would be too sticky and softie.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Tossing Memories

Sunday, Wifey, the Girl, and her cousin went for a long shopping trip to the mall.  Apparently her cousin does not go to the mall very often and so a shopping trip to the mall is actually interesting to her.  While we were gone, I decided to get the Boy to clean out all the crap stuff under his bed.  He was reluctant, but agreed to it when I told him he could watch football on the new, small TV we recently gave him.  Actually, it was a re-gift of a small TV Wifey bought for me like 4 years ago, and it was too small and I never used it.  He's in heaven as he finally gets a TV in his room like everyone else (poor guy - as the youngest, he always gets things last).

His bed is a twin bed on top of a cabinet for putting "stuff" under there.  In the past, when digging for dirty laundry, I've pulled out like 7 sets of underwear that just "fell through the cracks".  Good god.  This is what it looked like with everything pulled out:

I asked him to sort things out into:
a) trash
b) keep
c) donate
And I went ahead and warned him, "You know that Mommy's not going to be happy with whatever you choose.  So do your best, let her go through your pile and freak out."  He nodded, cause we both know that Mommy is never happy with anything the kids do when it comes to cleaning.

Wifey is very hard to please.  She may tell you to clean your room.  But if you throw away something she thinks (in her mind) is valuable, she then berates you for throwing that thing out.  In reality, she wants things clean and orderly, but she has the hoarding gene from her mother.  Everything (even graded old elementary school homework) has some value that needs to be saved and put away neatly - that is unless there is a 4 hour shopping mall trip with her cousin planned.

[I know, very biting]

But I also know that this boy is at once very huggy and touchy (he likes for us to hug him and show affection) is also very unemotionally attached to most things.  He had one small paper bag of trash, which I looked over before he tossed (scrap paper, string, etc...).  And then this was his "give away" pile:

That is pretty much about 97% of everything that he dragged out from underneath his bed.

It's somewhat annoying as some of the stuff he just got like 3 months ago.  You think, "Man, this kid just doesn't value stuff."  Or you could think, "Well, this kid isn't too much into material possessions.  At least he won't be a hoarder - just a stuffer of stuff where it can't be seen cause he's too lazy to clean out."

But I knew, the aqua stuffed animal you see would be the sticking point with Wifey.  You see, a month before we met him in China, we sent a goodie box with cameras, candy, a photo book and a mini version of that giraffe.  We then brought the big version of that giraffe to China.  When he showed up, they gave us pictures and his photo book - but no mini-giraffe.  And when we got him back to the hotel room, we showed hi the big giraffe, but there was no recognition or interest in it.

Now that we know him better, we know that he probably had little or no interest in the mini-giraffe that was sent to him.  They probably just gave it to another kid.  And obviously, the big giraffe has been stuffed under the bed for quite a while.

When Wifey came home it was:

Wifey: Oh no way is that giraffe being given away.  I told you that you had to WATCH HIM.
Me: Oh please!  He never cared for the giraffe.  It's YOU that cares more about it than him.  And, I knew you weren't going to be happy with whatever he chose, so that's why it's out here.  For you to pick at.
Wifey: Sigh.  Why is it that I have to watch everything?
Me: Because we knew that whatever he and I chose, you would have a problem with it.  You were shopping.  You've been complaining he needs to clean it out, so he did!
Wifey: Well, I still have to go through everything!
Me: [biting my tongue and saying nothing]
Wifey: Sigh!

"Mamma ain't happy unless Mamma ain't happy"

At least he got this:

He asked if he could spend the night in there.  I thought about it briefly and said no.