My top 5 StrengthsFinder 2.0 themes

So many “personality” exams focus on fixing our shortcomings instead of identifying and developing our strengths. Going against that trend, I recently took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, and it identified the following five strengths or themes as my top five: Input, Intellection, Communication, Responsibility and Learner.
It also created an action plan for me to follow for each of my top five strengths:
People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
By nature, you may be well-read in certain fields. Sometimes you gather information that benefits you personally and/or professionally. Perhaps you comprehend what you read, catalog it in your mind, and somehow document it. This might prevent specific individuals from saying you are ordinary, average, or plain. To some degree, you care about what particular people think of you. You might want them to regard you as knowledgeable, believable, and accomplished. Because of your strengths, you sometimes feast on the written word. Perhaps others find you poring over — that is, studiously reading — a book to acquire a few simple facts or to deepen your understanding of a favorite topic. Because you are well read, you might be able to provide people with certain kinds of information they need. Driven by your talents, you have acquired a sophisticated vocabulary, comprised of technical, subject-specific, or complicated words. Whenever you describe the intricate steps of procedures, you are likely to rely on this terminology. Your attention to detail works to your advantage when you are addressing experts. Because you comprehend the meanings of their words, you can talk about how things function in a language they understand. Instinctively, you periodically are comfortable having time to yourself. Perhaps these interludes provide you with an opportunity to read. Whether you are sitting on a quiet beach or in a crowded airport terminal, you might be able to create your own space with a book, magazine, newspaper, document, or correspondence. Gleaning certain kinds of information, inspiration, or insights from these sources might make your relaxation a bit more pleasurable or your delays a bit more tolerable. It’s very likely that you tend to express your doubts about various ideas, theories, or concepts. Using your brainpower, you put aside your emotions while calmly absorbing as much information as you can. Even though you may have never experienced a particular situation, event, opportunity, or dilemma, you exhibit the mental capacity to project yourself into it. Lively conversations with intelligent individuals stimulate your thinking about abstract or complex topics.

  • Look for jobs in which you are charged with acquiring new information each day, such as teaching, research, or journalism.
  • Devise a system to store and easily locate information. This can be as simple as a file for all the articles you have clipped or as sophisticated as a computer database.
  • Partner with someone with dominant Focus or Discipline talents. This person will help you stay on track when your inquisitiveness leads you down intriguing but distracting avenues.
  • Your mind is open and absorbent. You naturally soak up information in the same way that a sponge soaks up water. But just as the primary purpose of the sponge is not to permanently contain what it absorbs, neither should your mind simply store information. Input without output can lead to stagnation. As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing with them.
  • You might naturally be an exceptional repository of facts, data, and ideas. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to position yourself as an expert. By simply following your Input talents, you could become known as the authority in your field.
  • Remember that you must be more than just a collector of information. At some point, you’ll need to leverage this knowledge and turn it into action. Make a point of identifying the facts and data that would be most valuable to others, and use this information to their advantage.
  • Identify your areas of specialization, and actively seek more information about them.
  • Schedule time to read books and articles that stimulate you.
  • Deliberately increase your vocabulary. Collect new words, and learn the meaning of each of them.
  • Identify situations in which you can share the information you have collected with other people.
  • Also make sure to let your friends and colleagues know that you enjoy answering their questions.

People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
It’s very likely that you have new ideas whirling around in your head much of the time. You are very interested in solving problems, conceiving new concepts, designing plans, or understanding everyday matters. Driven by your talents, you sometimes sit down with a book simply because you are eager to discover new ideas. Through the printed word, you have made the acquaintance of some very interesting fictional characters and real people. Because of your strengths, you are sometimes a critical reader. That is, you occasionally take apart writers’ ideas and examine them bit by bit. Afterward, you might be able to judge whether specific thoughts have merit. To some extent, your scrutiny of the printed word, rather than your emotions, guides your decision-making process. Instinctively, you may be fascinated by the printed word. Particular books, magazines, newspapers, correspondence, or Internet sites intrigue you. Whether you choose fiction or nonfiction, you might feast on facts and insights into human behavior. Ordinary and extraordinary experiences, philosophies of life, or research findings might captivate you. Guided by your interests, perhaps you can add a few ideas to your storehouse of knowledge when you take time to read. By nature, you might be well-read in particular subjects. Some people whom you have befriended may turn to you for guidance. By referring to something you have read, occasionally you can help a person see a specific situation or a particular problem from a different perspective. For you, reading might be a key that opens the door to a world of fresh ideas. Maybe you collect them; never knowing whether something you read will benefit someone else.

  • Consider beginning or continuing your studies in philosophy, literature, or psychology. You will always enjoy subjects that stimulate your thinking.
  • List your ideas in a log or diary. These ideas will serve as grist for your mental mill, and they might yield valuable insights.
  • Deliberately build relationships with people you consider to be “big thinkers.” Their example will inspire you to focus your own thinking.
  • People may think you are aloof or disengaged when you close your door or spend time alone.
  • Help them understand that this is simply a reflection of your thinking style, and that it results not from a disregard for relationships, but from a desire to bring the most you can to those relationships.
  • You are at your best when you have the time to follow an intellectual trail and see where it leads. Get involved on the front end of projects and initiatives, rather than jumping in at the execution stage. If you join in the latter stages, you may derail what has already been decided, and your insights may come too late.
  • Engaging people in intellectual and philosophical debate is one way that you make sense of things. This is not the case for everyone. Be sure to channel your provocative questions to those who similarly enjoy the give and take of debate.
  • Schedule time for thinking; it can be energizing for you. Use these occasions to muse and reflect.
  • Take time to write. Writing might be the best way for you to crystallize and integrate your thoughts.
  • Find people who like to talk about the same issues you do. Organize a discussion group that addresses your subjects of interest.
  • Encourage people around you to use their full intellectual capital by reframing questions for them and by engaging them in dialogue. At the same time, realize that there will be some who find this intimidating and who need time to reflect before being put on the spot.

People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.
Because of your strengths, you sometimes enjoy being the person who gets people talking. When outsiders or newcomers have little or nothing to say, you might find a way to involve some of them in the dialogue. Instinctively, you select the right combination of words to convey your ideas or feelings. In the middle of discussions, your vocabulary provides you with precise phrases and terminology. You probably express yourself with ease and grace. By nature, you may feel comfortable speaking to a variety of individuals or audiences. Chances are good that you may gravitate to groups whose members love to exchange information, ideas, opinions, stories, or jokes. Perhaps you have an easy time sharing your thoughts and feelings with people. Driven by your talents, you are comfortable telling others stories about your personal habits, qualities, experiences, or background. Your forthcoming nature probably enables others to share their thoughts and feelings with you.

  • You will always do well in roles that require you to capture people’s attention. Think about a career in teaching, sales, marketing, ministry, or the media. Your Communication talents are likely to flourish in these areas.
  • Start a collection of stories or phrases that resonate with you. For example, cut out magazine articles that move you, or write down powerful word combinations. Practice telling these stories or saying these words out loud, by yourself. Listen to yourself actually saying the words. Refine.
  • When you are presenting, pay close attention to your audience. Watch their reactions to each part of your presentation. You will notice that some parts are especially engaging. Afterwards, take time to identify the moments that particularly caught the audience’s attention. Draft your next presentation around these highlights.
  • Practice. Improvisation has a certain appeal, but in general, an audience will respond best to a presenter who knows where he or she is headed. Counter intuitively, the more prepared you are, the more natural your improvisations will appear.
  • Identify your most beneficial sounding boards and audiences — the listeners who seem to bring out your best communication. Examine these individuals or groups to learn why you are so good when you speak with them or to them, and look for the same qualities in potential partners and audiences.
  • Keep getting smarter about the words you use. They are a critical currency. Spend them wisely, and monitor their impact.
  • Your Communication talents can be highly effective when your message has substance. Don’t rely on your talents alone; take your communication to the level of strength by developing your knowledge and expertise in specific areas.
  • You are gifted in fostering dialogue among peers and colleagues. Use your Communication talents to summarize the various points in a meeting and to build consensus by helping others see what they have in common.
  • If you enjoy writing (I do), consider publishing your work. If you enjoy public speaking, make a presentation at a professional meeting or convention. In either case, your Communication talents will serve to assist you in finding just the right way to frame your ideas and state your purpose. You delight in sharing your thoughts with others, so find the medium that best fits your voice and message.
  • Volunteer for opportunities to present. You can become known as someone who helps people express their thoughts and ambitions in a captivating way.

People who are especially talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.
Instinctively, you are occasionally willing to be vulnerable. Perhaps you claim your talents or admit your weaknesses. Your openness may help some people know you better as a person. Your straightforward style may convince others you are honest, dependable, and reliable. By nature, you sometimes do what you said you would do even when it means being inconvenienced. Although your pace may remain measured and easy, you might be determined to honor your promises to certain individuals. The quality of the relationship you have with someone might determine which commitments receive your full and prompt attention. It’s very likely that you sometimes ponder what you could do better. You may find some new ways to deliver on the commitments you have made to certain individuals. Perhaps keeping promises is one way you might enhance the quality of your work. Driven by your talents, you sometimes are honest with yourself about yourself. You might be candid about your limitations when you are talking with certain individuals. Perhaps you are comfortable admitting you need to do some things better, more completely, or more perfectly. Chances are good that you try to finish the tasks you agreed to do. Perhaps you even overcome some unexpected problems. Occasionally you work longer hours when it is necessary. Maybe you do whatever you can to avoid breaking the promises you made to people.

  • Emphasize your sense of responsibility when job hunting. During interviews, describe your desire to be held fully accountable for the success or failure of projects, your intense dislike of unfinished work, and your need to “make it right” if a commitment is not met.
  • Keep volunteering for more responsibility than your experience seems to warrant. You thrive on responsibility, and you can deal with it very effectively.
  • Align yourself with others who share your sense of responsibility. You will flourish when working with people who share your determination to get things done.
  • Tell your manager that you work best when given the freedom to follow through on your commitments — that you don’t need to check in during a project, just at the end. You can be trusted to get it done.
  • Push yourself to say no. Because you are instinctively responsible, it might sometimes be difficult to refuse opportunities. For this reason, you must be selective. Ask for more responsibility in only the areas that matter most to you.
  • You naturally take ownership of every project you are involved in. Make sure that your capacity to own does not keep you from sharing responsibility. Allow others the opportunity to experience the challenges of ownership. In doing so, you will contribute to their growth and development.
  • Learn to manage your Responsibility talents by considering whether you really are the person who should be handling a particular issue. Defer to your existing responsibilities and goals before undertaking additional burdens, as you may end up skimping on quality if you have too many tasks or competing demands.
  • Partner with someone especially talented in Discipline or Focus. This person can help you stay on track and prevent you from becoming overloaded.
  • Working with a like-minded, responsible colleague is satisfying for you. Be sure to clarify expectations and boundaries so that each person can feel ownership for his or her particular tasks — without stepping on each other’s toes.
  • Responsible individuals like to know they have “delivered” on their commitments, so create metrics and goals to gauge how effectively you meet your obligations. Also, make sure you have explicit and concrete expectations so that there is no question regarding quality outcomes and so that you can hit the mark as promised.

People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
Because of your strengths, you ponder your decisions rather than react without thinking through things. You weigh the possible ramifications, consequences, outcomes, and effects. You aim to understand the basic “whys” and “hows” of a situation, problem, or opportunity. People trust you to be cautious. They expect you to raise important issues that require further consideration. It’s very likely that you occasionally sign up for rigorous courses of study rather than enroll in easy classes. This might satisfy your need to master things that do not come naturally. Perhaps you trust you can handle unpleasant or difficult assignments. Maybe the struggle to expand your knowledge, broaden your skills, conquer your limitations, or fix problems motivates you to welcome academic challenges. By nature, you frequently examine the factors leading up to an event. Therein you discover the reasons why things happened the way they did. A number of individuals and/or groups probably appreciate your logical thinking style. Driven by your talents, you sometimes enroll in difficult or demanding classes.
You might aim to expand your knowledge or challenge your thinking about certain things. Instinctively, you probably identify the traits or experiences that distinguish one person from the next. Once you familiarize yourself with someone, you can often predict with accuracy how the person will react in different situations.

  • Refine how you learn. For example, you might learn best by teaching; if so, seek out opportunities to present to others. You might learn best through quiet reflection; if so, find this quiet time.
  • Develop ways to track the progress of your learning. If there are distinct levels or stages of learning within a discipline or skill, take a moment to celebrate your progression from one level
  • to the next. If no such levels exist, create them for yourself (e.g., reading five books on the subject or making three presentations on the subject).
  • Be a catalyst for change. Others might be intimidated by new rules, new skills, or new circumstances. Your willingness to soak up this newness can calm their fears and spur them to action. Take this responsibility seriously.
  • Seek roles that require some form of technical competence. You will enjoy the process of acquiring and maintaining this expertise.
  • As far as possible, shift your career toward a field with constantly changing technologies or regulations. You will be energized by the challenge of keeping up.
  • Because you are not threatened by unfamiliar information, you might excel in a consulting role (either internal or external) in which you are paid to go into new situations and pick up new competencies or languages quickly.
  • Research supports the link between learning and performance. When people have the opportunity to learn and grow, they are more productive and loyal. Look for ways to measure the degree to which you and others feel that your learning needs are being met, to create individualized learning milestones, and to reward achievements in learning.
  • At work, take advantage of programs that subsidize your learning. Your organization may be willing to pay for part or all of your instructional coursework or for certifications. Ask your manager for information about scholarships and other educational opportunities.
  • Honor your desire to learn. Take advantage of adult educational opportunities in your community. Discipline yourself to sign up for at least one new academic or adult learning course each year.
  • Time disappears and your attention intensifies when you are immersed in studying or learning.
  • Allow yourself to “follow the trail” by scheduling learning sessions during periods of time that will not be interrupted by pressing engagements.

30 things I want to do before I die

Continuing on to the next list my counselor suggested I should make, here are 30 things I’d like to do before I die:

  1. Spend a week or two in and around Rockingham, North Carolina, learning as much as I can about my 4th-great grandfather, John Stricklin, born abut 1785, died October 1849. Particularly who his father and mother were.
  2. Spend a week or two in and around Lutts, Tennessee, learning as much as I can about my 3rd-great grandfather, Thomas Stricklin (20 Aug 1805 – 9 Jun 1889), and other members of my family who lived in that area.
  3. Spend some time traveling around Kendal, Cumbria, England, where my family surname almost certainly originated.
  4. Spend some time vacationing in the District of Columbia, seeing as many museums and monuments as humanly possible.
  5. Go on a cruise with a private stateroom, preferably the Caribbean or Hawaii.
  6. Travel first class (air).
  7. Become a published author.
  8. Be CEO of a company with a real office and real employees.
  9. Teach a Bible study.
  10. Teach a high school or college-level course, probably History or Government.
  11. Build a home that I, with the help of an architect, of course, designed.
  12. Move to a larger city, most likely either the Dallas/Fort Worth area or the Austin/San Antonio level.
  13. Learn Spanish.
  14. Learn to cook. I mean, really cook.
  15. Learn to play guitar.
  16. Learn to play bass.
  17. Learn to read music.
  18. Become a certified genealogist.
  19. Play in a band.
  20. Weigh under 200 lbs. once again.
  21. Have Lasik surgery.
  22. Get cosmetic dentistry.
  23. Have the excess skin under my eyes removed.
  24. Be someone’s mentor.
  25. Be a delegate to a GOP convention. (I was going to say, “Attend the inauguration of a Republican president,” but have you ever stood outside for an entire day in Washington, D.C. during January?!? It’s cold!)
  26. Eat a pizza from from Lombardi’s.
  27. Eat a Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza from Pizzeria Uno, 29 East Ohio, Chicago, IL, 60611.
  28. Eat a deep-dish pizza from Giordano’s.
  29. Eat a chili-dog from Pink’s in Hollywood.
  30. Watch my nephew graduate college and/or get married.

Notice I said I’d like to do these things, not that I expect to do these things. Some of them, maybe. All of them, probably not.

30 things I want to have before I die

Thursday, my counselor gave me a challenge to complete three lists detailing 30 things I’d have, 30 things I’d do and 30 things I want to be, all before I pass away.
Okay, here goes with the first list (in no particular order):

  1. A Mac Pro with Two 2.93GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon “Westmere” (12 cores) 32GB (8x4GB) processors, a Mac Pro RAID Card, four 512GB solid-state drives, two ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB video cards, two 18x SuperDrives, two Apple (27″ flat panel)LED Cinema Displays, an Apple Magic Mouse + Magic Trackpad, an Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English), a Quad-channel 4Gb Fibre Channel PCI Express card and iWork Family Pack & Microsoft Office Mac 2011 – Home and Business Edition preinstalled. ($19,584.95, but it ships for free!)
  2. A Macbook Pro with a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 2X4GB memory, a 512GB Solid State Drive, a SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW), a 17-inch Hi-Resolution Antiglare Widescreen Display and a Backlit Keyboard (English). ($4,449.00, and again, it ships for free!)
  3. A Mercedes-Benz C30 Luxury Sedan, black with an almond/mocha interior and burl walnut wood trim; Premium 1, lighting and multimedia packages, illuminated door sills, keyless entry, rear-view camera, rear-seat entertainment center and sports grill. ($49,923)

Okay, let’s be serious:

  1. A wife that, for some crazy reason, still thinks I’m handsome.
  2. A daughter who is in college and dating a man who adores her the way I do.
  3. A son who makes me proud to be his Dad.
  4. Work that I find challenging but not frustratingly so, and I can’t believe people actually pay me good money to do.
  5. A house that I’d had a hand in designing.
  6. A cat that doesn’t poop or barf all over the carpet.
  7. An office with lots of nice things, like computers and a nice desk, etc.
  8. Good friends, some that I see on a regular basis and some that I call up and spend an hour or two talking about the good ol’ days.
  9. A church where I enjoy serving and worshipping.
  10. Good health, enough to be able to travel and get around by myself.
  11. Musical instruments like guitars, basses and drums, and the ability to actually play them.
  12. The ability to travel outside of the country to countries I’ve always wanted to visit, and some that I’ve missed and wish to visit again.
  13. The ability to give generously to my church and worthy charities.
  14. Elected officials that adequately represent my interests and don’t run up debt on needless social programs.
  15. Most all of my current teeth, or at least some good false ones.
  16. My hearing.
  17. My eyesight.
  18. All of my limbs and digits.
  19. My memory.
  20. My sanity.
  21. A comfortable chair in the living room.
  22. FiOS Internet access.
  23. A large, high definition, flat-screen television.
  24. A comfortable bed.
  25. Nice clothes.
  26. Season tickets to all the MSU men’s football games.
  27. Somewhere quiet, where I can read and work.
  28. Mac Pro with Two 2.93GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon “Westmere” (12 cores) 32GB (8x4GB) processors, a Mac Pro RAID Card, four 512GB solid-state drives, two ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB video cards, two 18x SuperDrives, two Apple (27″ flat panel)LED Cinema Displays, an Apple Magic Mouse + Magic Trackpad, an Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English), a Quad-channel 4Gb Fibre Channel PCI Express card and iWork Family Pack & Microsoft Office Mac 2011 – Home and Business Edition preinstalled. ($19,584.95, but it ships for free!)
  29. Macbook Pro with a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 2X4GB memory, a 512GB Solid State Drive, a SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW), a 17-inch Hi-Resolution Antiglare Widescreen Display and a Backlit Keyboard (English). ($4,449.00, and again, it ships for free!)
  30. Mercedes-Benz C30 Luxury Sedan, black with an almond/mocha interior and burl walnut wood trim; Premium 1, lighting and multimedia packages, illuminated door sills, keyless entry, rear-view camera, rear-seat entertainment center and sports grill. ($49,923)

Yeah, I just had to slip those last 3 in there. Sue me.
Keep in mind that some of these things may not exist or will have been updated by the time I die, which I plan on doing May 6th, 2060. Also, feel free to purchase anything you see here for me as a gift.

Codifying oneself

In college, I’d learned about blogging and the Geek Code, and dabbled with both. Because Robert Hayden, the Geek Code’s author, hadn’t updated the code since 1996 and had allowed blogging, PHP, AJAX, Podcasts and a myriad of other geek advancements go by without updating the code to reflect them, I began about a year or so ago, with the help of Blackb|rd in the #wordpress IRC, to formulate what we then called the GUID, an acronym for the Geek Uniform Identification.
Well, the GUID fell on the back burner, and Blackb|rd asked me today if I had any plans to release it or resume work on it. Sadly, all of my files related to the project have been inadvertently deleted. Then, as we began to discuss restarting the project, someone informed us it had already been done. Several times, really.
The Hacker Key attempted to expand on the Geek Key’s good points while eliminating the bad points and condensing the whole thing down onto one line. Of course, those value judgments are purely subjective to Chris Allegretta, the Hacker Key’s author, and I have no problem with that. However, the key moved from measuring and displaying geekiness toward hacker prowess. Since I’m a geek, not a hacker, the key really doesn’t apply to me.
That didn’t stop me from taking the test, though.
My hacker key:


Then there’s the OmniCode, purported to be “a direct replacement for the Geek Code and includes almost everything, and I mean almost everything you’d possibly want to display in your code.” Almost.
There’s fewer references to pop culture geekiness, television shows, politics, etc. like the original code, and there’s very little whimsy apparent. It’s all very cut-and-dried.
My OmniCode:

———————- OmniCode 0.1.7 ———————–
sxy cm183 kg126 skf1eae4 ha0d0d0d.receding_with_flecks_of_dbd4cc ey88ab90 esO&#&o.bifocals sp= Ag1960.May.05 anE hdd Lo32,290N-93,416W.United_States.Louisiana.Shreveport ZoR.metal rlC LAEN Crc(4).System Analyst Edc(6) HbSleeping&.Eating Pll MvD Rl!.lonely Kd! PeC.tortoise-shell_called_Samantha&C.gray_longhair_named_Alexander MBINTJ.once_tested_as_ENTP FH!.stubble_on_weekends UFSid&AJ IN4.8_on_weekends AdC&O.chocolate& PrBASIC(7)^(7)&C(5)^(5)&COBOL(6)^(6)&PHP(2)^(9)
———– Omnicode ———–

Still, it seems to be a work in progress so I’ll cut it some slack. At least it’s not stuck in 1992.

The Stricklin Mindset List

Every Fall, Beloit College produces what they’ve come to call the Beloit College Mindset List, a list of popular culture and historical references that demonstrate the incoming freshmen class’ mindset, having grown up when they did. For example, those born in 1987 and entering college this year have never known a day when the federal budget was less than a trillion dollars, Andy Warhol, Liberace, Jackie Gleason, and Lee Marvin have always been dead, and Iran and Iraq have never been at war with each other.

You get the idea.
So, today, in honor of my 46th birthday, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into what has happened since I was born.

  • I remember when homes only had one television, and it was huge!
  • I remember when televisions only came in black and white.
  • I remember watching the Ed Sullivan and the Red Skelton shows.
  • I remember seeing the Vietnam War every night on the evening news.
  • I remember seeing Neil Armstrong land on the moon.
  • I remember watching the (war) draft on television.
  • I remember the years between the end of the draft and the beginning of the Selective Service.
  • I remember when cable and satellite television for the home was unheard of.
  • I remember when HBO first became available.
  • I remember exactly where I was when President Nixon resigned.
  • I remember the Challenger exploding.
  • I remember voting for Reagan. Twice. Fondly.
  • I remember the fall of Siagon.
  • I remember the Iranian hostage crisis.
  • I remember disco. Not fondly.
  • I remember when John Lennon was shot.
  • I remember when the Beatles were still together.
  • I remember the Banana Splits.
  • I remember Tang.
  • I remember when white men in Shreveport used the slur “n****r” in open conversation. (To be clear, I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I’m saying I remember it happening, and it’s something I hated then and I hate now.)
  • I remember when there were no black children in my class.
  • I remember hearing something about what happened at Chappaquiddick, but being 9 at the time, didn’t care much.
  • Sadly, pretty much the same thing for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
  • I remember being stunned with news of the People’s Temple suicides.
  • I remember begging to watch Batman at the dinner table.
  • For that matter, I remember when everyone in the family ate dinner together, and no television was allowed.
  • I remember when calling someone “gay” meant he was a particularly happy individual.
  • I remember when every guy I knew had a copy of Farrah Fawcett’s poster on his wall. I remember why, too.
  • I remember when porn was shown only in theatres downtown, in the seedy parts of downtown.
  • I remember when Superman, Star Trek and Star Wars all opened.
  • I remember actually being impressed with their special effects.
  • I remember not even knowing who Bill Clinton was, when he was the governor of a state that’s less than 30 minutes North of where I grew up.
  • I remember hearing about how bad our neighbor’s daughter was because she smoked pot!
  • I remember when we could get two gallons of gasoline for under $1.
  • I remember when my first car cost $5,000. New!
  • I remember the lines around the service stations and rationing because gasoline cost $0.94 a gallon (About $3.08 in 2016 dollars.)
  • I remember Jimmy Carter’s pep-talk to the nation.
  • I remember when the Macintosh was first introduced.
  • I remember playing Zork on an Apple IIc.
  • I remember when my hair reached the middle of my shoulder blades.

So you see, I’ve been around for an old man. Here’s hoping I stay around for a few more interesting things.

The Privileged Planet

This weekend I watched a fascinating DVD titled The Privileged Planet which refutes the Copernican principle (sometimes called the principle of mediocrity) by arguing that the Earth’s seemingly insignificance compared to the universe as a whole in actuality is a compelling argument that our planet’s existence is exceedingly rare and suggests the universe was expressly created with us in mind; that instead of demoting Earth, it actually promoted Earth.
Authors Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards outline several different variables that must be exactly right in order for life to exist, including:

  1. It must be located within the Galactic habitable zone
    …close enough to its Galaxy’s center that a sufficiently high level of heavy elements (iron, magnesium, silicon) exist to favor the formation of rocky planets, but is far enough from the center to avoid hazards such as impacts from comets and asteroids, close encounters with passing stars, and outbursts of radiation from supernovae and from the black hole at the center of the galaxy.
  2. It must be located within the Circumstellar habitable zone
    …positioned properly to its star where liquid water could form and be maintained. For example, if the Earth were positioned 5% closer to the sun, the temperatures would soar to over 900° F and water would be burned out of our atmosphere, similar to Venus; if it were positioned 25% further away from the sun, carbon monoxide clouds would form and we’d freeze similar to Mars.
  3. It’d have to orbit a main sequence G2 dwarf star having the correct mass
    …of which only 10% of the known universe is thought to be comprised of.
  4. It would need to be protected by one or more gas giant planets
    …such as Jupiter and Saturn, in our case.
  5. It would need to be orbited by a large moon.
    Our moon stabilizes the rotation of the Earth and restricts it to a perfect 23.5 degree tilt, giving us the seasons.
  6. It would need a moderate rate of rotation.
  7. It would need a nearly circular rotation.
    …to maintain relatively constant temperatures.
  8. It would be to be the correct mass.
  9. It would need to be terrestrial.
  10. It would need an oxygen-rich atmosphere
    …in order to support carbon-based life forms.
  11. It would have similar plate tectonics to our own
    If the Earth’s crust were any thicker, it wouldn’t be able to recycle carbon or regulate temperature.
  12. It would generate a magnetic field like ours.
    Without the magnetic fields of flux emanating from the Earth’s poles, the solar wind would strip off our atmosphere and leave us looking like Mars.
  13. It would have a similar ratio of water to continents.

Add to these factors that our location within the Galactic habitable zone happens to be in between the Sagittarius and Perseus arms of our galaxy where habitability is optimized and threats are minimized. Even within the Galactic habitable zone there are patches where the arms spiral inward where things are too dense: too many supernovas, too many black holes and too much deadly radiation for planets to inhabit life.
Then, add to those factors that our position within the galaxy, as well as the factors that make up Earth’s habitability, particularly its clear atmosphere, provide us with the best overall setting for making scientific discoveries. For example, the best place to view a solar eclipse was calculated against 60 planets and moons, but the best place to view one was here on Earth. Being able to view a solar eclipse this perfectly allows astronomers to see other stars, to see other galaxies and to calculate their position and movement.
When you take all of the factors the authors suggest:

N x fsg x fghz x fcr x fsp x fchz x np x fj x fc x fo x fm x fcp x fmn x fn x ft x fl x fi x fr x flc x flt

…and assign them conservative values of 10 x 1:

(1011 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) / 10 = 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 (one thousandth of one trillion)

In layman’s terms, that means that the likelihood of a planet like Earth occurring is roughly once in every trillion planets. While this suggests that the Earth is very rare, that statistic might even get lost in the types of big numbers we’re talking about in the universe. It’s kind of like the old saying where you call someone “one in a million.” With roughly 6,450,000,000 people on the Earth at the moment, that would mean at “one in a million” there might be as many as 6,449 more of you out there. So, even at one thousandth of a trillion, with Sagans of stars out there, it stands to reason that. statistically at least, the likelihood of Earth being singularly unique are small.
However, the mere fact that the universe is orderly seems to suggest that it was designed and created by an intelligent being, or… let’s just say it to be clear: God.
Consider the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

  1. Whatever comes to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Now, I know that “pure” scientists reject anything outside of materialism, but in a way, even scientists accept as a matter of faith an underlying assumption that the universe is orderly (otherwise, nothing could be studied because nothing could be measured, predicted or duplicated) and intelligent (otherwise, we ourselves couldn’t understand anything.)
If you accept that the universe is both orderly and intelligent, then it stands to reason that it either just happened to occur in that exact way as a cosmic fluke, or that is happened that way on purpose; that it was caused.
I choose to believe the latter.
Luckily, I’m in good company. Copernicus, himself the “instigator” of all this talk of “demoting” the Earth, believed that God created the universe propter nos (“for us”)

Paul Taylor (1960-2006)

I mourn the loss of childhood friend, Paul Taylor.
Paul was only a few months older than I, and he lived just over my backyard fence when I was in junior high and high school. He was the proverbial archetype of the “tough guy with a heart made of gold.” Even at 14, he shaved, and smoked, and drank and rode a motorcycle.
We became friends when David, my best friend even today, moved away to Houston. We would spend afternoons in his smoke-filled house, listening to records and playing our own music. Often we’d drive around the neighborhood in his old Fold Fairlane looking for something to do, and nearly without exception he drive in arcs across the local park’s parking lot so fast it’d nearly tip the car over, on my side!
During those years, I progressed from smoking Swisher Sweets to nearly 2 packs of Marlboro a day when he realized the reason I’d taken up smoking was to emulate him. Suddenly, one day when he and I walked around our neighborhood he suddenly stopped, grabbed the pack of cigarettes from my shirt pocket, tore them in half, stood inches away from my face and swore to me that if he found me smoking again, he’d beat the snot out of me. And no, he didn’t use the word ‘snot’, I did.
In the decades since, I’ve lit up a cigarette only twice.
At school, he and I spent a great deal of time and thought concerning the young women in our classes. In high school, he began dating Pam, a girl who’d run afoul of my girlfriend at the time. They married, and started their family right away. Paul dropped out of school to support them. Some time later, because of our mutual love for Paul, Pam and I settled our differences, which it turned out wasn’t that hard because neither of us could remember the root cause in the first place.
When I returned home after serving in the Gulf War in 1991, I visited with Paul and his family, giving t-shirts and trinkets to his children, Rachel and James. They were very young and small then… both of them are fully-grown now.
Paul and I met a few years ago at Murrell’s for a cup of coffee and conversation. I found out that the pinging sound on my home’s rotating exhaust fans that had driven my Dad crazy had been caused by Paul sitting on his back porch, pellet rifle in hand, shooting away and trying not to give away his position with laughter. I also found out that his marriage to Pam seemed to be ending. Shortly, his prediction came true.
Some time later, I received an announcement in the mail that Paul was marrying again, to a woman named Roxanna, and subsequent phone conversations proved to me that he was very, very happy.
I’ve been intending to call and visit, but as with many relationships, if you don’t make the time, the time slips away from you. Tuesday morning, Pam called me, got my answering machine, and because she wasn’t sure of my voice, ended the call. She called again later and told me the news: Paul had laid down along side his van at work and passed away. The speculation was that it was a heart attack.
I’m thankful that Paul didn’t suffer long. I’m thankful he was a friend when I needed one. I’m thankful he stopped me from becoming addicted to cigarettes. I’m thankful he taught me how to play the drums. More that those things, I’m thankful for all the times he made me laugh. He was a good man, and a good friend, and he will be sorely missed.

Meet Sammie & Alex

I suppose it’s time to introduce my readers to my two cats, Sammie (short for Samantha) on the right below and Alex (short for Alexander) on the left.

Sammie is about 4 or 5 years old, and a tortie (having a tortoise-shell appearance.) She belonged to my former fiancé, and her youngest daughter was concerned that I might be lonely after the breakup, so Sammie came to live with me.
Alex was left on a co-worker’s front doorstep when he was just a day or two old. He has a gray coat with a splash of white fur on his breast. I adopted him after my co-worker asked me to.
Some interesting notes about these two:

  • Alex was originally named “Ally” — a play on “Alley” as in “Alley Cat”, since she thought Alex was really a girl cat.
  • Sammie has a foot fetish, rubbing against and lightly biting my bare feet anytime they’re exposed, especially when I first get out of the shower.
  • Alex is a climber, always has been. When he was just a kitten, he used to jump and climb up the side of my slacks and shirts until he was perched on my shoulders. He would frequently climb up dressers, the refrigerator and shelves.
  • Sammie frequently stretches or cleans herself, then seems to forget to bring her tongue totally inside.
  • Alex likes to smell things with his mouth partially open, then leaves it that way for several moments.
  • Both Alex and Sammie “chatter” when they see birds outside.
  • Both are afraid of the vacuum cleaner and plastic bags.
  • Sammie picks up her toys with her claws and flings them against the walls.
  • Alex can sometimes be found sleeping on the floor underneath the bedspread, or on the bed itself under the comforter.
  • Alex used to climb up inside the back of the couch and go to sleep.
  • Sammie frequently lays across my legs and wrists, as if she’s trying to tell me to stop blogging.
  • Alex goes to sleep against the pillow beside me or curled up against my side. Sammie goes to sleep at my feet or between the legs.
  • Alex cannot be let into the bathroom because he’ll destroy the toilet paper and drag the bath mat all over the apartment.
  • Alex frequently runs ahead of me, lies down and stretches out, fully expecting me to rub his tummy.
  • Alex can sometimes be found lying on the carpet, on his back.
  • Alex will stick his arms and paws underneath the bathroom door and try to claw anything that moves.
  • Sammie actually kisses me, putting her lips against mine when she wants to show affection.

They’re my buddies, and I love taking care of them.

100 Things About Me

Updated and modified a bit since my February 26th, 2005 pseudo-anonymous list

  1. My given name is actually Charles.
  2. I don’t publish my surname because I don’t care for people in the real world Googling for me and thus reading my blog. I’m sure the more industrious and Internet-savvy of you out there could easily put two and two together, I just don’t want to make it any easier than I have to.
  3. The nickname ‘Twidget’ is actually military slang meaning “a military enlisted person whose job primarily involves using or maintaining electronics.”
  4. I took the term as my nickname because I used to be a ‘twidget’.
  5. I spent five and a half years as an enlisted person in the U.S. Navy (December 2, 1987 – July 26, 1993).
  6. I actually remember those dates.
  7. My rating was a Data Systems Technician (DS).
  8. That rating no longer exists, it was combined, along with several other technical ratings, into Electronics Technician after my discharge.
  9. I spent two months in Boot Camp and the Recruit Training Command in San Diego, California. It was closed in 1995.
  10. After boot camp, I spent a year at DS “A” and “C” schools at CSTSC at Mare Island Naval Station in Vallejo, California. Mare Island was closed in 1996. (Beginning to see a pattern here?)
  11. The highest rank I ever achieved was that of Petty Officer Third Class.
  12. The chevrons petty officers wear on the sleeves of their uniforms are more often called “crows”, because of the perched eagles at the top.
  13. I enlisted in the Navy under a program called “advanced enlistment” where, if I enlisted for six year’s duty instead of the usual four, I’d receive a year and a half of electronics training and be advanced to the rank of E-4.
  14. Thus, I was called a “push-button crow.”
  15. My NEC involved Link 11, a technology that took all the tracks in my ship’s combat systems computer, encrypted the data, turned them into frequencies or tones, broadcast them over radio waves, then in turn receiving other Link 11 capable ships, planes and such’s broadcast data and reversing the process. This effectively created a computer network involving military vessels spreading over hundreds of miles. So, in effect, I was there to maintain and repair, when necessary, a huge modem.
  16. While in the Navy, the only ship that I was billeted to was the U.S.S. Worden (CG-18), a destroyer that was upgraded to a light-cruiser in the 1970s.
  17. On Monday, October 19th, 1990 at latitude 00000 and longitude 105° 17′ E, my crewmates and I were found qualified to be numbered as one of King Neptunus Rex’s honored shellbacks and duly initiated into the Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of Shellbacks. Doing so also added 2 points to every advancement exam I would take afterwards.
  18. While on the Worden, I served in a war (Desert Shield/Desert Storm), 2 West Pacs, 1 Midshipmen’s cruise, and 1 LEO.
  19. While in the Navy, I traveled to the states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii; to the United States territory of Guam; to the countries of Australia, Canada, Mexico, British Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka; and the Arab Emirates Bahrain, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.
  20. I got to know Bahrain and Singapore as well as my hometown of Shreveport.
  21. I was nominated by my Divisional Chief Petty Officer for a NAM prior to my 2nd deployment to the Arabian Gulf for completely overhauling a piece of equipment during the previous deployment.
  22. The last time I took the advancement exam, I missed being advanced to 2nd Class Petty Officer by 0.001 of a point.
  23. I was later recommended to the Captain for advancement.
  24. Sometime during my 2nd deployment to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch, while also serving my first of two tours as a mess attendant, I began an upgrade on the Worden’s SSM-4A (Link-4A equipment used to coordinate aircraft’s vectoring). To this day, I don’t remember what happened, but I must’ve started the upgrade, gotten involved with something else and forgot all about it. While spending 12 hours a day making coffee and salad, washing dishes and swabbing decks, I was still expected to do all of my preventative maintenance on my equipment. I must’ve signed off on a preventative maintenance procedure on the equipment I’d begun the upgrade on, but never completed. In Navy slang, this is called “gun decking.”
  25. I’m not proud of myself for that. And, I do not remember doing it, but that’s no excuse.
  26. I was taken to Captain’s Mast for dereliction of duty. With perfect 4.0 evaluations up to this point and being the most senior 3rd class on the ship with no trouble before this, and falling on the mercy of the Captain, I’d expected maybe a “suspended bust” where I’d be reduced in rank for 6 months, restricted to the ship for that period and being given back my rank and privileges once the time was completed. I was instead reduced in rank to an E-3 (Seaman).
  27. Another Petty Officer, who’d helped me in the overhaul and a new Divisional Chief Petty Officer, who hadn’t even been there when we did the overhaul, received the NAM I’d been nominated for. It would’ve been worth an additional 2 points on every advancement exam I would’ve taken from that point onward.
  28. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed off.
  29. The Worden was scheduled to be decommissioned upon the end of my 2nd deployment. When an enlisted member’s EAOS coincides with their ship being decommissioned, the serviceperson may request an early discharge rather than having that serviceperson be transferred to their next duty, then being discharged, So, I got out 6 months early.
  30. People ask me about my feeling for the Navy now. I tell them, “It was just like high school: I had good times, I had bad times; overall, I’m glad I did it but you could not pay me enough to go back and do it all again.”
  31. Did I mention that I was honorably discharged? No? Well, I was.
  32. On Saturday, June 17, 2000 the Worden was sunk in water over 14,000 feet deep and more than 50 miles South of the island of Oahu, where she and I had been home-ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This made it official: every single command I ever served at has since been decommissioned!
  33. I’ve just realized that I’ve spent a third of my list of 100 things writing exclusively about my years in service to my country. I’m sorry if it bores you, but it obviously made an enormous impact on me.
  34. I’m male (in case you haven’t figured that out, or if you’ve been listening to Jennifer.)
  35. I was born May 5, 1960. That makes me 44 at the time of this writing.
  36. I’ve been 6 feet tall ever since high school.
  37. I currently weigh about 260 pounds.
  38. I’ve worn glasses ever since the 6th grade. One day, I’ll get Lasik surgery to correct my near-sightedness.
  39. I’m a Christian.
  40. I’m heterosexual.
  41. I’m pro-life.
  42. Decades ago I took a Mensa-proctored intelligence test that measured my I.Q. at 139, making me eligible to join them, but I never have.
  43. I never did well in school.
  44. I’ve been diagnosed as hypertensive.
  45. I’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
  46. I suffer from depression.
  47. I am obsessive-compulsive.
  48. I probably have always had ADD.
  49. I grew up less than two miles from where I currently live.
  50. I graduated in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration majoring in from Mississippi State University.
  51. I’ve only voted for one Democrat in my life: Bill Clinton; a badge of shame I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
  52. I have two housemates: Samantha/Sammie, a female “tortie” I inherited from the breakup with my ex-fiancé and Alexander/Alex, who a co-worker rescued and I later adopted.
  53. My first cat was a sweet Burmese named Smokey. He is still my favorite.
  54. I’m right-handed.
  55. I’m a baritone.
  56. I own every (legitimate) Steely Dan CD ever produced.
  57. I’ve never been married or lived with a women, but I came close.
  58. I smoked a joint the night before I went to see the Navy recruiter.
  59. My dad passed away several years ago.
  60. I only have one sibling, an older sister named Sharon.
  61. I hate having to shave.
  62. I couldn’t grow a decent moustache or beard if my life depended on it.
  63. I tend to get involved with women that are no good for me.
  64. I have no piercings or tattoos.
  65. I snore, apparently.
  66. I hate to wake up.
  67. My idea of the perfect vacation is to stay in bed, never shower or shave, and sleep when I feel like it.
  68. I’m lonely, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
  69. I wouldn’t pass my own standards for size and attractiveness I require of women I date.
  70. But my ex-fiancé taught me that I shouldn’t lower my standards just because that’s a double-standard.
  71. My favorite meal is Blackened Salmon Alexander with dirty rice, French bread, a salad with Ranch dressing and Shiner Bock from Pappadeaux.
  72. My second favorite would have to be Chicken Scaloppini from Johnny Carino’s.
  73. I drive better in the middle of the night and the early morning than I do in the afternoon.
  74. I’d rather be too hot than too cold.
  75. The first thing I look at on a woman is her hair. If she takes care of her hair and styles it well, it speaks volumes.
  76. The second thing would have to be her breasts. Yep, I’m a breast man.
  77. Generally I prefer larger to smaller. Although small can be nice. It’s really all about shape.
  78. A woman’s flat tummy and the nape of her neck are big turn-ons for me.
  79. If I could date any celebrity, the only name that instantly comes to mind is Jennifer Connelly .
  80. I smoked two packs of Marlboro red in high school, and gave them up cold turkey.
  81. I talk way too much and about things I ought not.
  82. I love lean, large, juicy filet mignon.
  83. I also love Waffle House in the middle of the night.
  84. In high school, I was a draftsman.
  85. I’ve also been a waiter, a head waiter and an assistant manager.
  86. My favorite ice creams are Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, Ben & Jerry’s Brownie Batter, Ben & Jerry’s One Sweet Whirled (sadly, no longer available) and Godiva Belgian Dark Chocolate.
  87. My taste in music ranges from Bach to They Might Be Giants.
  88. I spend an inordinate amount of time talking about anything but WordPress in #wordpress.
  89. I’ve blogged using Blogger, Movable Types and WordPress.
  90. I’d rather listen to Glenn Beck and Mark Davis than Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
  91. My shoe size is 12 wide.
  92. My favorite color would probably be forest green.
  93. Briefs.
  94. I’ve memorized many Monty Python scenes.
  95. My favorite authors are Tom Clancy, Douglas Adams and Bill Hybels. (How’s that for eclectic?
  96. No, I won’t tell you when I lost my virginity, only that it did, indeed, happen.
  97. If I could’ve chosen any other career for myself, I’d either be a musician/singer/songwriter or a college history professor.
  98. To this day, I still fold my underwear and t-shirts. See number 9 and 47.
  99. I flail all over the bed when I sleep, except when Sammie and/or Alex pin my legs down.
  100. This list was easier to make than I thought it would be.

Are you Cajun?

How to tell a full-blooded, dipped-in-the-bayou Cajun from someone who just wishes he was.
1. Did your grandmother regularly eat couche-couche for breakfast?
2. Does your father consider a six-pack of beer and a pound of boudin to be a seven-course meal?
3. Does your grandmother bellyache all week long – until Saturday, when she steps out with the best of them cutting a fine two-step?
4. If the doctor told you coffee causes cancer, would you rather take your chances than do without it?
5. Could you paddle a pirogue 20 miles an hour down a straight stretch of stump-free bayou?
6. Is there a Tee-Jean, a Tee-Man or a Tee-Boy among your uncles?
7. Have you always called your uncle by his “Tee” name – and forgotten his real one?
8. Are you related to your next-door neighbor?
9. Does someone in your family know how to treat sunstroke, the “waste-away sickness” or “Indian fire”?
10. Can you remember when you hated to tell strangers you’d eaten crawfish for dinner because it was inelegant and everybody knew only Cajuns ate crawfish?
11. Look closely at the wedding photograph of your grandmother. Was he bridal bouquet made of crepe paper?
12. If someone stepped on your toe, would you instinctively yell “Oh. Yee-Yii!” instead of “Ouch!”?
Scoring guide:
Give yourself one point for every “yes” answer.

10-12 Full-blooded Cajun, 24 karat.
7-9 Can’t be considered a real Cajun, and it is understandable that you may be wrestling with the pains of an identity crisis.
0-6 Not even in the ball game.