Thoughts from the caffeine primed mind of Nathan Smack.

Looking in the mirror

| Tuesday, December 23, 2008
With the holiday season fully engulfing the civilized world, it takes a certain amount of effort to step back and really try to appreciate the significance of it all. For me, Thanksgiving has always been one of the best times of the year. I (as many people know) love food, and food loves me. Being able to enjoy a lovingly prepared meal with friends and family while sharing and remembering new and old stories alike, somehow makes me wonder why so much of the rest of the years is so stressful. I know why the stress builds; I just don’t know why I let it infiltrate my psyche like some expanding insulation foam, filling in all of the nooks and crannies of my attitude and bubbling out in to the open air. Luckily, Christmas does not follow too far behind (especially this year) which allows for another opportunity to sit back and reflect on what is really important.

My two beautiful, intelligent, independent daughters and my amazingly caring, compassionate, forward thinking wife are the most wondrous gifts I could ever hope to receive. My Grandma and the spiritual lamppost that she provides have helped shape my attitude toward family in ways that she may never comprehend. I am certain that without the acceptance and outreach of my Mom and Dad (in-law) the success that I have attained in my adult life would be non-existent. They have both, through example and advice, shown me what it means to do what you love and love what you do.

Celebrating the end of the year past, and the beginning of the year ahead is quickly becoming one of the true highlights of my life. Having friends that feel like family, is a blessing that I never thought I would have in life. Knowing that there are people who would sacrifice time with their other friends and family to come and put up with the craziness that is the Smack household, renews my belief that good friends are a treasure like no other.

Looking forward, I am hopeful. I believe that every step forward will bring new challenges and require courage in the face of difficult times. I also believe that as time marches on, new relationships will grow, and old relationships will become stronger. I am hopeful that good health, happy moments, and new experiences will make me a better father, husband, son, and friend. Greif, disappointment and heartache, being as integral to the human condition as joy, encouragement, and love, will forge me into the man that I am meant to be.

The Pledge of Allegiance

| Friday, October 10, 2008
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all."

That is the pledge that I grew up reciting everyday in school (K-12). I continue to recite the Pledge at appropriate moments and get a great sense of pride from doing it. In my mind, the Republic for which it stands is not the bureaucracy in DC, Columbus, or (*ahem*) Urbana. The Republic for which it stands are the people that keep this country going strong. I am not oblivious to the current economic issues facing OUR country, I am just optimistic that history will and always does repeat itself. We have survived, we will survive, and prosper as only WE can. Naive? Maybe, but if someone can prove me wrong, then WE ALL have something more to worry about than someone not reciting the Pledge.

The notion that the Pledge is somehow flawed because it was originally written by two Socialists is ridiculous. People who claim that the Pledge is a forced vow of obedience to the State have a skewed sense of patriotism. The word allegiance has many meanings, but in the framework of the Pledge, allegiance is synonymous with fidelity (faithfulness). Have you ever met a US Marine? Try explaining to them why you think they are upholding 'Socialist' ideals. Semper Fi

Want to know more about the Pledge than you ever thought possible? Start with my favorite jumping off point... Wikipedia


| Friday, September 12, 2008

Metallica. That one word stirs up many different emotions for a vast array of individuals. There tends to be a three way split amongst those who know anything about the band that is celebrating 20+ years in the music industry. The haters are often the most vocal, whining about what the band did to “free music” and the Napster craze, moaning about how they sold out when they cut their hair and experimented with the Load / ReLoad albums and then again with St. Anger. While it was not the greatest time to be a fan of Metallica, I thoroughly enjoyed the music and experiencing my first of many live shows.

Another segment of the population could be qualified as the apathetic folks who may have enjoyed a few of the songs over the years, but do not really get what the band is about. These individuals can be heard to say, “Metallica? Are they still around?” Perhaps this group does not enjoy the current rock/metal/alternative selection, and instead prefers to listen to pop country, talk radio or nothing at all.

Finally, the third segment of my suggested Metallica listenership, the fans. Fans fill in an entirely unique spectrum of the world of entertainment consumers. I consider anyone whose ears perk up when they hear mention of Metallica and begin to pay attention to what is going on. Rabid collector of Metallica paraphernalia or casual listener who will make it a point to (legally) download a few songs off the new album or even buy one off the shelf for those occasional air guitar jam sessions. Fans are whom the music really is for. Fans will debate or ignore the hardheaded critics and listen to Lars, James, Kirk, and Robert (or Cliff or Jason) in spite of the negative press. Fans will occasionally feel the hair on the back of their neck stand up when they hear the bells tolling or the choppers beating the air at the intro to One. Fans understand that when it comes down too it, music is personal, music is primal, and music is food for the soul. God, family and Metallica: nothing else matters.

Java Book... Gooood!

| Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Browsing through the IT wiki at work, I came across a link to “Thinking in Java” by Bruce Eckel. So besides being a programming guru with oodles of experience, he is an established technical author that gives his books away on the Web. Sweet! “Thinking in Java” is the kind of book you wish you had read first, before the Deitels and O’reillys. This book gets it right from the outset by talking about how you get you head into the subject matter. The typical approach it to start defining features and giving examples. Boring to your average wannabe code monkey. What Eckel does (IMHO) is bring the topic to life with actual writing style. Read this book first, then browse through the others for reference and code variety.

Stranger in a Strange Land

| Tuesday, July 22, 2008
But I am not going to run to the hills! I have started my new job as an applications developer in the Dublin office of the company that decided to give me a shot at something very new to me. After two days, I am getting the feeling that I made the right decision by seeking this position. The managers are laid back, yet focused. The other developers (the ones that I have become acquainted with so far) all have a very good handle on their roles and are willing to stop and explain the intricacies of the projects on which I will be working.

I must admit however, the corporate culture is a little uncomfortable. There are about 100 folks that work in the building and while walking to or from where ever I am walking; nobody seems compelled to lift their eyes to meet mine for a casual “Hey there.” Perhaps it is because I am a new face, and people often come and go in consultant positions. I am hoping that after a few more days, as I continue to smile and engage in eye contact with the people I meet in the aisles between the cubicles, those glances will be met more receptively.

Entry Level

| Monday, July 7, 2008
After finally finishing the task I began in 1995, I have found myself in a position that many people would envy. When I began studying to complete a Civil Engineering degree at Ohio University [], I never thought that it would take 13 years to attain a bachelor degree. Civil engineering was my second choice as a career goal due to the steering of my high school drafting teacher. He convinced me that architecture was so highly competitive a career field that it would be a waste of time to pursue. Four years went by, accumulating bad decisions, bad habits, and lack of sufficient motivation and left me in a position that none would envy, four years of school debt, and no degree.

Two years later, after working various civil engineering oriented jobs; CAD operator, rod man on a survey crew, Engineering Aide in a municipal engineering department, I was married to the love of my life and we began our life together as a family. What is one of the important things every family need to get started on the right foot? Steady income. That is where surveying came in for me. While I was earning a lesser wage than my recently graduated wife, I was enjoying my work, and we were living comfortably as newly weds.

Fast forward to March 3, 2005. Several attempts at restarting an engineering degree have been met with lack of acceptable performance and more time and money wasted on what is becoming more of a pipe dream than an end goal. I begin to realize that with the new addition to our family, daughter numero uno, I need to get my act together so that I can be at least an equal bread winner, and not an on-again-off-again struggling student. The following fall, I enrolled at Indiana Wesleyan University [].

As a side note, while I was editing this blog I found that IWU was ranked 31st by U.S. News and World Report in the Midwes category for Universities that grant Masters Degrees. [USN&WR Article]

Today I am a father of two beautiful little girls, the husband of an amazingly intelligent, knockout of a woman, and homeowner. I have completed my course work at IWU and will graduate August 9th with a Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems. Some may ask, is that related to civil engineering? Nope, I am in the midst of a career change. Computer applications programming is where I will dedicate my professional efforts, and have already found a lucrative opportunity with an international marketing company developing custom apps in .NET and J2EE. This synopsis of my post-high school life is meant to be an exercise in reflection. I, by my very nature, am not one to dwell on the past, and quite often simply ignore it all together for the purpose of living in the present. However, to fully appreciate what I have been able to accomplish with the massive support from my family and friends, this glance back makes the present, and future that much sweeter. I would not suggest that my current situation is enviable by anyone, but I have been on the fringes of success for so long, that I know what it is like to want a little taste for myself. Now I have that chance.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells and You

| Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This is a very exciting technology, I just hope the test release goes well, and that Honda [] can begin full scale production. The initial release will only see a very limited test market in the southern California area. With a $600/month lease price, it is not exactly being marketed to the average Joe. The real question to be asked, is will Honda sell these at a loss for the first few years to get them into the mainstream of the market place like Toyota [] did with the Prius? I hope so.

AMP Motorworks [] has developed another vehicle that some people can get their hands on in the near future. This Cincinnati startup is converting the Saturn Sky [to a full electric high performance sports car. The first 300 'Charter Members' will see a price point of about $50K - $60K, but as wee all know it does not take very long for prices in the new technology sector to fall.

Avoiding the landfill is easer than ever

| Friday, May 2, 2008

In case you have not heard, recycling is good. Freecycle is a group oriented, community-centric organization that has become a very successful way to match people that have stuff to get rid of with people that need stuff. The end results being less usable stuff in the landfill, and a healthy shot of good karma. Try it, you will like it! []

Gifts of Spring

| Friday, April 18, 2008

LeAnna, these are for you. I think it is only appropriate to give flowers in return, when someone is as thoughtful and caring as you are. I am sure that Lauren will enjoy her tulips and I hope you will enjoy this bouquet of tulips with some daffodils from our own yard. I love you.

"Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made."

| Tuesday, April 8, 2008
It is not everyday that one has the opportunity to quote Mel Brooks, but in this instance it could not be helped. While you will not find any < blog > Smack < / blog > t-shirts, lunch boxes or flame throwers here, you will certainly notice the block ad to your right containing often helpful info regarding the topics this blog tends to discuss. As someone who does not particularly care for captive audience advertising, I considered not putting any kind of ad space on my blog. Then it struck me that if any revenue was actually generated (that should be a 82pt, bold, italicized, underlined if), then I could simply slip the funds into my daughters' savings accounts.

Then a "Snap Shot" caught my attention. I was browsing some website and a link popped up showing me a thumbnail of the targeted site; interested, I followed through to the Snap Shots home page and set up an account. They recommend in their "Best Practices" section, that anyone introducing the tool to their audience include the following snippet:

I just installed a nice little tool on this site called Snap Shots that enhances links with visual previews of the destination site, interactive excerpts of Wikipedia articles, MySpace profiles, IMDb profiles and Amazon products, display inline videos, RSS, MP3s, photos, stock charts and more.

Sometimes Snap Shots bring you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while other times it lets you "look ahead," before deciding if you want to follow a link or not.

Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.

In any event, these items have been installed on this blog, mainly for my tinkering and for your information. Assuming that most people are desensitized from this kind of advertising anyway, nobody should be offended by their inclusion. If I am wrong, you know what to do.

Okay, this is why I love OPEN SOURCE!

| Monday, April 7, 2008
So, I just blogged about NetBeans being my favorite IDE out of the two that I have used for Java coding, and then I found out that the whole ball game is about to change! According to regular NB contributor, Roman Stroble [ article ] , NetBeans 7.0 will be released in 2009 as a complete rewrite using JavaScript and distributed wholly on the web through your browser. Going the way of Google, i.e. providing every application you could ever need via web services, NetBeans will be a full featured on-line IDE hosted by Sun Microsystems and supported by additional ad space in the IDE.

Whoops! Are there really going to be Google Ads running in my IDE? This is a move that may turn some folks who were considering NB for J2EE development over to the Eclipse side.

I guess it is inevitable, that more and more high level applications will be running through the browser, but I cannot help but wonder if we will be forced to endure increased lag time in trade for ultimate portability? Since this Web 2.0 push has every application developer looking towards browser deployment, does this mean that someday soon I will be able to have my regular colonoscopy performed while sitting at home as long as I have JavaScript enabled in my browser? Okay, I know, NOBODY needed that mental image, but since this whole post is based on an April Fools Day prank that got a lot of nerds' undies in a bunch, I figured I would dream a little dream...

Back to the Beans

| Saturday, April 5, 2008
As I continue to learn and develop my programming skills, I have found that I really prefer the NetBeans IDE [ ] over the Eclipse IDE [ ]. When I first started using an IDE for my Java code (about two years ago) , I found NetBeans to be very user friendly. One of the main reasons for this perceived ease of use was the frequent distribution of "how-to" videos, blogs, articles, etc. by members of the NetBeans developer community.

The weekly NetBeans newsletter provides continuous updates and introductory instructions for the newest or often overlooked features of the IDE. While Eclipse is the "industry standard" IDE for Java development, Netbeans is gaining ground and now allows users to import Eclipse projects.
More later...

A Change of Pace

| Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Friday April 4th, 2008 will be my last day working for Edwards Surveying in Urbana, Ohio. I gave my letter of resignation to my boss (Bill) roughly two weeks ago. This will be the first time since 1992 that I will not be working for a paycheck (my first job was delivering the Hamilton Journal News). Some folks wonder why I would do such a thing. There a several reasons; my beautiful daughters will not have to spend so much time in daycare, I will have time to focus on my health (primarily weight loss), and the jobs that need done around the house will get more of my attention.

I have enjoyed working for the Edwards family and learned quite a lot. If any one needs any kind of survey work done on their property/project in the Champaign, Logan, Clark county area, Edwards should be your first call. /end advertisement :)

So if the ramblings of an unemployed, father of two, husband of one interest you...