Rachel's Challenge - Accepted

Filed under:Inspiring, Journal, PTA, Religion, Opinion, Friends, USOE, Family — posted by Tyler on May 19, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

Rachel’s Hands

I’ve been involved with the PTA since my daughter began school in September of last year. I attended my second Leadership Training Convention on Thursday and Friday which happens annually in May. Last year I was inspired by Ronda Rose, Legislative Vice President on the Utah PTA Executive Board. She finished up her term this year and she will be greatly missed because of her ability to speak from her heart, stand up for her convictions, and truly inspire! All the effort I’ve given and all the effort I will continue to give will be, in part, inspired by this amazing woman.

This year I was inspired by the last workshop that I attended; one that I really didn’t have time to attend and one that I had to leave half way through, but the half that I was privileged to listen to proved extremely worthwhile. The workshop was entitled Rachel’s Challenge and was brought about by the tragic events of April 20, 1999 when two students killed 12 students and 1 teacher at Columbine High School. Rachel Scott was the first to die that dreadful day. But little did anyone know, except Rachel herself as she foreshadowed in her diary, that her death would touch millions of hearts.

After her death an essay that she had written for a class was found under her bed. The message of the essay inspired the family to share and challenge people everywhere to take upon themselves Rachel’s “Codes of Life“. There are five of them and they gel nicely with my personal beliefs. But put in perspective of her life and tragic death, they suddenly took on new light and meaning. How this girl of 17 was able to have such vision is a miracle.

I listened eagerly as Dana Scott, Rachel’s sister, shared her story with us. The presentation consisted of heartfelt narration by Dana along with video clips and slide show pictures. It was the best powerpoint presentation I had ever seen. I found myself watching Dana as she watched the video clips and I tried to imagine what she must have felt losing her sister and nearly losing her brother. I watched as her emotions changed from sadness and fear during the news clips that showed the tragedy of that day to pure joy when they showed footage of her as a child, full of joy (incidentally her middle name) and life. I felt myself empathizing, which has only begun to happen in my life as of two years ago.

Several years ago I had a friend who had cancer. I wasn’t being especially empathetic as I talked about the situation with my wife in the car one day. She chastised me for my lack of a Christ-like attitude. At first I didn’t accept that I needed to change. My feeling was that difficulties happen in everyone’s life and that you just accept it and get over it; a complete lack of empathy. But the fact that I recognized that it was not Christ-like to have such an attitude led me to search out that attribute and I began to pray for it.

Several months passed and nothing major had changed despite my prayers. I still had a general sense of disdain for other people’s burdens but continued to search out a change of heart. It was a hot day on the 18th of July, 2005 where Clint (a friend and co-worker) and I found shade under the curved steps of the Salt Lake City Library. Just as we were finishing our 7-11 hot dogs we heard what sounded to me like a skate board hitting the pavement, but much louder. It wasn’t long before we both realized that something terrible had happened. We ran over to where the noise came from and much to our shock we found the body of a woman lying face up on the brick-lain sidewalk. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but suffice it to say, the woman had jumped from the top of the library to her untimely death, despite what paramedics tried to do for her.

I was still unaware how much this event would effect my life. Clint and I tried to deal with it the best we could through humor, but as the days went on it haunted me. I found myself reading her obituary and all of the online comments from the online version on the local newspaper’s website to try and find out who this woman was and why she would do such a thing. Her name was Michelle Marie Macy and she was only 39 years old. She was a pharmacist and married, but had no children. She loved cats. She had family who loved her. I began to recognize feelings of empathy within myself, but the true change of heart came when I found the courage inside to pray for Michelle - a complete stranger. I prayed for her family and those who must be feeling the pain of her untimely passing. I experienced true compassion and charity during that prayer and when I finished I found that I was crying. The change of heart that I had been praying for had finally come!

I hope Michelle’s family will find comfort that her death was not in vain, just as Rachel’s death was not in vain. My life was touched and I learned a lesson that was long overdue. I hope that one day I can give Michelle a hug and tell her that I love her. I don’t know what circumstances she must have been going through to come to that point, but I know that Jesus Christ loves her. I know that her family loves her.

So it was with charity and love that I listened to the message that Rachel’s sister had to share. Her message did not fall on unfertile soil. I will take the message to heart, re-evaluate my life, and strive to improve myself. That is the Purpose of Life - day by day, week by week, year by year.

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New Blog Emerges in Blogosphere

Filed under:Web Log (Blog), Cool Stuff, USOE, Friends — posted by Tyler on April 26, 2007 @ 3:05 pm

My good friend, Clint, has begun recording his adventures in a new blog entitled “BonnevilleMariner“. The current story is one that I had the pleasure of being involved in; a noisy ride to Nevada in my oil-leaking Jeep with Clint and John. We nearly ran out of gas at least once and we were completely lost at one point. I can honestly say that that was the only time I’ve been lost and were it not for the insistence of the majority that we were finally walking up the right road, I might have been lost forever. I’ll comment more on his blog for history’s sake.

I look forward to reading more stories as they’re posted and I’m sure you’ll enjoy a lore or two if you take a moment to visit and browse. It will be more reminiscent for me seeing as how I’m Clint’s adventure buddy and have been involved in many of the adventures he’ll share. The one place he didn’t follow me was down an old, dark, long-forgotten mining tunnel. And wisely so. (Yet again, because he was there I am not still lost or now dead.) Thanks, Clint!

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Hand-picked Freeware Portal

Filed under:Cool Stuff, Tech, Opinion, USOE, Work — posted by Tyler on March 27, 2006 @ 11:49 pm

Yalin is a co-worker and good friend of mine at USOE and he recently posted a page using the new Google Page Creator [pages.google.com] that lists all of his favorite freeware [ykececi.googlepages.com/]. He’s pointed me in the right direction on a few things in the past, so I think this list is worth having a look at. Some of it I already use, but it’s nice to have a place to go to find some other good stuff that’s already been tried and tested.

Stuff on the list that I vouch for and currently use includes:

  • Billy [sheepfriends.com] (an extremely small audio player with global hotkeys)
  • Notepad++ [notepad-plus.sourceforge.net] (a great lightweight notepad program, I use it to write HTML, with a few extra frills; like numbered lines for debugging Line Number errors)
  • Open Office [openoffice.org] (an office suite that doesn’t cost a dime and is compatible with Microsoft Office products.)
  • Firefox [getfirefox.com] (and all its extension goodness)

Stuff on the list that I’m going to check out:

  • SuperFast Shutdown (for when my ride home comes in and says “let’s go!”)
  • FreeCommander
  • Unlocker
  • Orphan’s Remover

Stuff that Yalin should add to his list:

  • AVG Free Antivirus [grisoft.com] (I’ve been using it for years on my personal computer and it’s been doing great!)
  • A few in the “Video Tools” category, which category doesn’t exist on his list.  I’ll blog on those another day.
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Comparing Programming Languages

Filed under:Tech, USOE — posted by Tyler on March 7, 2006 @ 10:52 pm

Hello World!Today our entire LAN team went out to lunch and we talked a little bit about some differences in programming between two departments in our building; namely District Computer Services and Agency Computer Services. Agency Computer Services employees are currently programming in PowerBuilder (Sybase) and District Computer Services are writing in Visual Basic. We discussed how there is a possibility that Agency Computer Services may decide to conform with a building standard. Standardizing would be beneficial, the question is, what should be the standard?

Side-by-side comparison between PowerBuilder and Visual Basic [woodger.ca] are actually not as different as I would have thought. The major differences seem to be the learning curve (PowerBuilder has a higher learning curve), “openness” and diversity (PowerBuilder remains “open” so that it can be implemented on a much wider range of platforms) and cost.

I don’t really care what they choose, although it is more likely that they’ll choose Visual Basic based on its popularity and short learning curve. The programmers in Agency Computer Services could pick up VB easily enough.

Interestingly enough, there was a Slashdot article today along the lines of our lunch conversation entitled “Is Visual Basic a Good Beginner’s Language?” [slashdot.org]. I don’t have any experience in Visual Basic, but based on many of the comments made on Slashdot, I would tend to agree that it may not be the best beginner’s language, but not for the reasons you might think.

My experience is based entirely what I learned in college, so I am definitely not the expert. However, I started out with a C++ class (without concentrating on OO to start with) and then an advanced C++ class that taught us all about the Object Oriented nature of the language.

The entire time I wished that I knew what the computer was doing with the programs I was writing. I was very happy when I finally had my assembly language class, although admittedly, it didn’t make me a better programmer; it just shed some light on the process.

When I took my COBOL class, it was a completely different experience. COBOL was pretty straight forward compared to C++, but very verbose! It was very format specific and the only good thing about it was that it was extremely easy to tell what the program was doing.

Finally, I used Java in my graphics class which was pretty satisfying for me. Despite having to get past the fact that I had never formally learned Java, I really enjoyed writing programs whose output was so much more then just lines of text; they were moving, interactive, and clickable.

I like the idea of knowing how to program. If I ever did it as a job, I would need some major refresher courses, but I think I could pick it up again easily enough. One of the arguments made at lunch today was that many of the programmers want to use C# or .NET primarily because by learning those languages they would be more marketable if they ever decided to leave. I tend to agree, I would rather learn something that is more widely used and that teaches you more. Visual Basic from what I’ve read, really doesn’t make you a better programmer. From Wikipedia:

Many critics of Visual Basic explain that the simple nature of Visual Basic is harmful in the long run. Many people have learned VB on their own without learning good programming practices. Even when VB is learned in a formal classroom, the student may not be introduced to many fundamental programming techniques and constructs, since much of the functionality is contained within the individual components and not visible to the programmer. Since it is possible to learn how to use VB without learning standard programming practices, this often leads to unintelligible code and workarounds.

Of course, everybody has their comfort zones and background, so you tend to like what you’re comfortable with. Since I’m no longer comfortable with anything, it really wouldn’t matter to me, but I would prefer to learn something that will help me in more areas than just my current job. Seeing as how I work on the network side of things, it really doesn’t make a difference what I think. I don’t have to deal with programming at all in my current job, but I’m still quite interested in programming. I think if I ever find the time, I’ll learn the latest web development craze of the last year, Ruby on Rails [rubyonrails.org].

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Does Your Family Eat Together?

Filed under:Heather, Opinion, USOE, Friends — posted by Tyler on February 9, 2006 @ 10:38 pm

Heather was reading the Tooele Transcript Bulletin tonight and pointed out some interesting facts about an article entitled “Does Your Family Eat Together? That Could Say Alot About You”.

We’ve been eating together as a family nearly on a nightly basis ever since we got into our home just over 7 months ago. I’ve really enjoyed it and I’m glad Heather enjoys cooking now. (She didn’t used to.)

Of course, we have two small children, so that makes it much easier to do. I’m sure it will become more and more difficult as our children grow into teenagers. But it will be something that I hope we continue, because based on the article several good things come of it, according to studies.
For example:

  • Children who eat frequently with their families tend to do better in school.
  • Children tend to be happier with their present life and their prospects for the future.
  • Teens who regularly eat meals with their families are less likely to get in fights, think about suicide, smoke, drink, do drugs and they’ll have better academic performance.

I’ve noticed that I look forward to being home with my family more now that I have dinner time to look forward to. I’ve always been a very social eater. It’s good to sit down with my family and bond with them over a hearty lasagna or a spicy chili. (Heather makes a mild batch for the kids. What a good mom!)

I enjoy eating lunch with my friends. I actually don’t take a lunch unless I’m going to eat with somebody. Eating socially might actually be considered a bad habit in my case. I’m contantly finding people that will go to lunch with me. Luckily my friend Clint joins me quite often. He works where I work, so that makes it even more convenient.

Today we ate lunch with at one of my favorite lunch joints, The Five Star Restaurant [visitsaltlake.com]. It’s really good and pretty dang cheap for the amount of food you get. It’s mixed Thai/Chinese food. The people there are very friendly and I wish more waitresses/waiters were as good as these are. The only thing about The Five Star is that you have to get there before noon (we usually go at around 11:15 or so) because the lunch rush is kind of crazy. But even if you go during the rush, the service is always awesome.

We first went to the restaurant because of the $9.99 all-you-can-eat crab on Tuesday and Thursdays. It’s not too bad, although every once in a while a plate of cold crab will come your way. I’m not sure how that happens, but cold and water-logged crab isn’t too good. But due to the great service, the low price and the majority of the plates containing wonderful, seculant, hot crab…it’s well worth it!

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