Closing a 23-year chapter

Lots of feelings today, as it’s my last with DXC/Hewlett-Packard after 23 years with the company. I was a 16y/o intern when I started, my after-school job was to update a division’s jobs listing website using MS FrontPage. Fast-forward two decades, 3 company splits (Agilent, HP Inc, Hewlett Packard Enterprise), 3 major mergers (Compaq, EDS, CSC), and 7 CEOs, it’s been quite a ride! Here are my first two computers I used when I arrived at the company.

I am grateful for all of the great friends I met along the way. I appreciate their kindness, patience, support, and generosity. I got the opportunity to work with many incredible people, learn valuable lessons, build awesome tools, and move technological mountains. I’m always going to look back fondly on my time here, and because of many of you, those memories are joyful ones.

My next adventure starts in a week, but first some time to play with my kids while they’re on Spring Break. Despite having no income, right now I feel very rich, showered with so many blessings!

The Covid Pandemic – 1 Year Later

One year ago this week, the world changed. Looking back over the last year, it’s astonishing to realize just how different things have been and how we had no idea just how long things were going to be this way.

Lockdown Chalk Art

I’m now thinking of March 10 and 11, in the same way, I think of September 10, 2021 – a contrasting barometer for just how much life changed in a matter of days. Hearing the news that the WHO declared a Pandemic didn’t really resonate with me right away. My friend Matt and I met up for dinner that night and went to a minor league hockey game.

I started to feel a little bit of the tension as our phones were lighting up with the news about Tom Hanks, the Utah Jazz game being canceled right before tip-off, then the President addressing the nation that night. I experienced all that news second-hand during a sparsely-attended hockey game. As we were walking back to our cars after the game, someone proclaimed that it’s probably going to be the last game for a while – but I never realized that would be the last time I’d be at a live event or eating dinner indoors for over a year.

Two days later, we got an email halfway through the day (on Friday the 13th, no less) that the kids were going to be home for the next two weeks, followed by spring break. At the time, it seemed like it was going to be daunting having the kids home while we were working. We shifted around our basement to make it an indoor play area. Being stuck inside (because the weather was also cold), hours seemed like days. The two weeks went and we were trying to do remote schooling for Clara through independent assignments. Everyone was trying their best, but life was definitely disrupted.

Life Today

As we look back and reflect on the last year, there’s so much that has changed. We haven’t traveled further than one hour away from home. We haven’t seen the dining room of a restaurant, or the inside of a coffee shop. It’s a big deal when all four of our nuclear family go to the store or run errands. There are many friends that we haven’t seen in person. We have a niece and nephew that we haven’t met yet.

Watching our community respond to this virus has been a mixed bag. It’s been inspiring to watch our health care workers, educators, and the countless number of unsung heroes turn the cogs of our society display their resiliency and determination. However, it’s sad to witness some who I’ve really respected fall prey to cynicism, distrust, and suspicion. People who espouse themselves as fiercely protective of life being unwilling to perform an act of charity to their community by wearing a mask. They shout that people are living in fear while masking their own denial that we are living out history, with the fact that our lives are disrupted by unseen forces. I suppose it’s easier berating a straw man rather than coming to terms that there really isn’t a single person or group that’s responsible for this.

Yet, there is reason to be hopeful. We have thankfully avoided the virus and the concerns that go along with getting others sick. Bethany and I have both received our second doses of vaccine and are looking forward to unlocking many activities that we previously haven’t been able to do. We’ve been thankful that our girls have been able to go to in-person school and daycare throughout this time. They’ve definitely had to make adjustments – especially Clara – but it’s amazing how resilient the kids have been. Optimism is in the air and is becoming contagious, hopefully much more than this awful virus.

Our Winter Break Project – A RetroPie Arcade

Our Winter Break Project – A RetroPie Arcade

This has been quite a different winter break for us, hunkering down and lying low for Christmas and New Years’, but we found the perfect project to keep our family busy – constructing our own arcade cabinet!

I’ve had RetroPie loaded onto my Raspberry Pi hanging around for three years, but we thought this would be a fun way to showcase these classic games, plus combine Bethany’s developing woodworking skills with a fun tech project.

I found some great plans over at The Geek Pub that we purchased for $5. I’m going to defer to The Geek Pub’s post for the details on materials and items, but wanted to share our experience in putting things together.

We split the work into three days: cutting (Day 1), assembling/drilling (Day 2), painting and final assembly (Day 3).

Day 1 – Cutting

We started by tracing out the side panels as one continuous piece. After cutting the first side, we used it as a stencil for the second side, then went through and cut the back, top, bottom, and interior panels. Cutting took the better part of the afternoon, but we managed to fit all of our pieces by evening.

Day 2 – Outer Assembly & Control Panel

With all our pieces cut, we spent the next morning doing all the assembly. Bethany got to use her new pocket-hole kit so that we could assemble it from the inside. We started by assembling the sides to the back, then the exterior panels, starting from the bottom and working our way up.

While Bethany was working through the panel assembly, I got to work on the control panel. We used the hole saw to drill the 22 holes in the panel (we actually had to use the backup cut, as we hit a snag the first time around). We actually got a 1/2″ thick piece of plywood for the panel to better tighten the buttons. Once the holes were drilled, the girls and I set to work on installing all the buttons and the joysticks. We then connected all the ribbon cables to the USB controller. This ended up taking more time than expected, but looked really cool when we were done.

At the end of day two, we had the arcade casing assembled and saw the end of the project in sight!

Day 3 – Final Assembly, Painting and Moving

Blessed with beautiful warm weather, we got up and painted the outer casing, going with grey. We ended up spray-painting the interior black to help the monitor blend in. We then put all of the interior panels in. One of the things we struggled with the plans was figuring out the monitor. The plans specified a 27″ monitor, and we ended up using a 24″ monitor but weren’t sure how we were going to secure it. We ended up building an ad-hoc shelf to place the monitor at an angle, then put a piece of backing wood to keep it from tipping too far back. We then added all of the wires, speakers, and lighting. We were finally ready to move it downstairs into the game room and get things running!

We got the monitor placed, the Raspberry Pi hooked up and fired everything up for the first time!

Bethany spent the rest of winter break printing the decals and making the arcade look awesome! Bethany indulged me in printing decals of some of my favorite games, some taking longer than others. We were really excited about how it turned out!

More Electoral College food for thought

Some food for thought for those who question the validity of the Electoral College…

These last 5 days have been excruciatingly slow for our nation, but do you realize that California has only tallied 3/4 of their votes? New York is a little better, with 84%, but between those two states alone they represent over 6 million uncounted votes – Biden’s current margin of victory is 4 million votes. Tonight while people are celebrating (or lamenting), every state is still counting votes.

A big part of what took the press so long in calling this election was waiting for a threshold state (Penn, Nevada) that would build up a large enough margin that wouldn’t trigger a recount. In keeping with the spirit of our republic, the Electoral College dispersed power and accountability, sharing it across multiple states.

As with all things government, the Electoral College is not perfect, but I would ask those who may not fully understand it from assuming that it’s without virtue. There are other tweaks that could be made (e.g. revising winner-take-all) could offer a compromise for many concerns.

Lastly, I wanted to share a chart of Swing States and Tipping Point states from the last 5 elections prior to 2020. There are definitely the usual suspects, but you may be surprised just how many states have had this status over the last 20 years.

My 2020 Political Podcast Playlist

My 2020 Political Podcast Playlist

Now that we’re less than 60 days until the Election, politics is in full gear for the fall. Since 2015 I’ve been on a steady (and probably unhealthy) increase of my political podcast consumption. As someone who is fiscally conservative, socially moderate, a detester of Donald Trump, I’ve tried to keep my perspective as open as possible, with a wide array of podcasts across the political spectrum.

I wanted to share a list of the political podcasts I listen to, in hopes that if you’re looking for something new to challenge and reinforce your views. If you have any that you really enjoy, please let me know! I’m always up for listening to a new podcast (currently I subscribe to 148 of them!

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