I've been putting off posting anything here, partly because I don't want to be recognized on the web for several reasons and partly because most people tell me my life has taken directions they consider a bit - - - unusual.
To start at the beginning, I was born on a farm in the hilly parts of West KY, in 1953. I could literally take a small telescope and look down on parts of the nearest community, several miles away, from our front yard, and sometimes did just that. We were high enough that lightning strikes nearby were common and often terrifying. Those were dark skies up through the 70's, and I certainly took advantage of that, observing Mars and the moon and nearby galaxies and globular clusters and nebula with that same small telescope. The washed out views of the sky East of the Mississippi now are just not in the ballpark with the skies I saw in my youth. You have to go to Kansas or other places further West to see such skies since the later 90's.
We raised tobacco, cattle, sometimes hogs when the market was right, some corn or beans, hay, etc. We did raise sheep until I was about five, when the wool market collapsed due to synthetic fiber. That's a lot of work, and I came to dislike a lot of the hand labor in farming. When you mix things up like that, the purpose is to be busy every day, and we often were.
When I grew old enough I went to college studying Physics and Astronomy. I basically gave up when the AAAS sent out that (in)famous letter to every physics and engineering student in the US, warning that there were no jobs in the fields and would be none for years to come. This was after Nixon essentially shut down NASA and several years after the X projects were cancelled by McNamara. There really were over a million trained scientists, engineers and technicians looking for work. I had actually completed all the physics requirements for the physics degree, but stopped before I had finished the last of the math.
During that period though, I had my first introduction to computers and programming, learning basic and fortran on a PDP-8.
When I left college, I needed a job, so I wound up working for the largest actual energy company in the free world, as a lab tech. That's what they called the job, anyone else on earth would call it quality control. However, quality control in a coal mine is a bit different from most quality control work, you are using picks, shovels and buckets to collect samples and then you do rough testing on them rapidly to guide the coal washing plant operators and the miners in what they are doing. Suffice it to say, I grew quite a lot of muscle during this time - though it didn't show as I was also eating a lot. The work was hard and very dangerous, I narrowly escaped major injury or death several times, literally by seconds or less in some instances, and it could get rather stressful. Frankly, many of the underground miners show clear signs of mental distress. A lot of them use drugs or have some pretty weird sexual practices to compensate. Me, I stayed on top of the ground, so I didn't get all that stressed out.
I did quite a bit of coal analysis as well as sampling. I have used analysis equipment ranging from gamma metrics gamma ray spectrum analyzers to fast SO2 analyzers to traditional bomb calorimetry for BTU analysis and moisture/ash analysis by traditional scale and furnace methods. Along with a lot of other field equipment.
Me, I just did my job and went on for seventeen years. At the end of that seventeen years, I could see several things very plainly. Firstly, the company workers were about to get screwed flat, and secondly the mines were playing out in any case. We had undercut nearly 75 square miles of countryside in this one mine, and it was plain to me this would not go on forever, we were near the end of the permits.
Besides that, I had scars enough and more than enough to satisify me.
So I flatly told my boss one day that he could put me on the next layoff list and that would be fine with me. He started telling me how the layoffs were over, all was good, and I simply said "just remember this".
About two months later, I was gone.
Eight months afterwards I ran into my old boss while drinking a coke and eating a burger at a little resturant in the front of a department store. I had to go back in for something, and while I was gone he told my wife that the entire quality control crew had been laid off, and a new company came in to do "independant" testing (this about three months after I was done) and they offered everyone their old jobs back with this new testing outfit at a whopping $2.50 an hour over minimum wage - half or less than what we had been making. Like I said, you can tell when a company is planning to screw you over, and when you see it coming, it's time to bail.
So, I went back to school and two years afterwards graduated with a BS in CS, from a private school, 3.51 GPA (nearly 40K in debt) and went to work for USACE (Army Corps of Engineers). And I've been working for the government as a contractor ever since, moving from USACE to the Bureau of Naval Personnel to the DOD contracts in Iraq. (YES, we do come under indirect fire, mortars and rockets. Yes, I've seen them falling nearby, within a hundred yards or so. No, doesn't bother me all that much. It's like what they say about hanging, you hang long enough you don't mind it any more.)
What else - I've kept bees pretty continuously for nearly 40 years now. I've taken bees out of houses and churches, and that work pays pretty well, but it is spotty, not very reliable. The funny thing about that, is that you will get many fewer stings with bare hands than with gloves on. I've tried it both ways, take my word for it or go try if you don't believe me. The reason is that simply touching bees does NOT induce them to sting. CRUSHING bees will always get you a sting. With bare hands, you can feel the bees and avoid crushing. Heck, I've taken bare hands and gently moved bees out of my way and never that I recall have I been stung simply pushing them around. And I can say that I'm one of a very few beekeepers who have not yet lost a colony to colony collapse syndrome. Hopefully, that will continue. (Hint: don't stress the bees.)
Semantics was actually required as part of a course for a CS major at my school, but I'd introduced myself to it much earlier, all the way back in the 70's. General Semantics is very important and will become more so in the coming years as we interface more and more with computers and it becomes more important to precisely state what you mean, but the name of General Semantics seems for some reason to be out of fashion at this time. This is very odd, I see many things that are clear plagarism from early GS work, and nobody seems to get called on it.
I don't like mechanic work, but give me the tools and the Haynes manual and I'll tear down a motor and make it work again, or fix a starter or change out a harmonic balancer with homemade tools. It's amazing what you can do when you have to.
I've built tesla coils and electronics gadgets for ages. When I was on the farm, I had a 1200 foot antenna stretched across a little valley for quite a while. I could hook a neon bulb between that antenna and the ground connection, and if a thunderstorm was within 100 miles, that bulb would flash. When they got within about 20 miles, it would just glow constantly.
My wife is part American Indian (she hates that native business, says "what are my kids, aliens?") and her family can lay claim to being the last clear descendants of the Chowan tribe. They've got marriage licenses and such to prove it. Oddly, the British clerk who put down those things specified "chowanc", and nobody knows where he came up with that final "c".
During my time with the coal company, I worked on the computers coming into the mines when I didn't have anything else to do. I set up a program on the company mainframe that figured standard deviation and results for our sampling, and printed out a simple ASCII graph of the results. This caused some trouble in the programming dept in the company HQ, because the programmers there could not figure out how to get the NOMAD2 programming language to send it's graphic output through PRISM on VM/CMS. They actually went into my account, changed the password and locked me out so they could see what I was doing. LOL. It was a bit tricky but totally possible.
And I'd say that's enough.