Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 in Binary

Considering I've been out on my own for about 6 1/2 years now, I decided that it was high time I started my own Christmas letter.  And seeing as this is a technology blog, what better way to showcase technology then by posting it here instead of mailing it out the old-fashioned way. 

To start things off, let me help anyone that isn't up to date catch up.  After high school, I moved up to North Dakota from Missouri to go to school at the University of North Dakota for biology and eventually med school.  I also enlisted in the North Dakota Air National Guard (NDANG) during that summer as a fuels technician.  I was placed in student flight for about a year, and then went to Basic and tech school between my freshman and sophomore years.  I also deployed to Al Udeid AB, Qatar (It's a tiny peninsula that sticks up off of Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf.) for 3 months in 2006.  More recently, my unit, which used to fly F-16s, changed missions, which in turn changed our manning documents.  My previous position as a fuels technician was eliminated and I was required to find a new job.  I managed to get a position as a communications technician (computer geek) with our new MQ-1 mission.  As such, I had to go to Keesler AFB for training for 4 months beginning in November 2007.  This opened up the opportunity for me to go on Title 10 orders (the same type of orders active duty service members receive) upon arriving back in North Dakota.  I transferred to NDSU and moved to Fargo in April 2008, and worked full-time at the NDANG for 2 years. 

Now that everyone is on the same page, it's time to get into this year.  It has been filled with many new beginnings.  Probably the most important events of the year for my career happened in January.  First, I was named Outstanding Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) of the Year for the 119th Operations Group and nominated for the wing-level award.  Second, I applied for and was hired as a federal technician at the NDANG.

Now, for those of you that don't speak Governmentese, allow me to explain.  In the National Guard, all individuals are on one of three statuses: weekender, technician, or AGR.  A "weekender" is someone that comes in for one weekend a month and two weeks a year for training.  An AGR is an active duty member of the military that is permanently stationed at our unit.  A technician is a federal civilian employee, similar to post office employees, whose job is to train the weekenders.  Prior to this hiring, I was a weekender who had been activated.  In other words, I was deployed to Fargo.  That's is a really bad way to have a job though, because a weekender can only be activated for a year at a time, and that activation depends completely on whether the Air Force wants to fund the position or not.  So, I was in constant limbo over whether I would have a job the following year.  As a federal technician, I am for the most part guaranteed a job until I'm 57, and I have a higher salary as well.  Needless to say, I was quite elated with this news.

The Outstanding Airman of the Year Award banquet was held in March.  I unfortunately was not selected as the wing Outstanding NCO of the Year, but I was not terribly disappointed by this.  The nomination was my second within my first enlistment term, (the first came in early 2007, when I was awarded Outstanding Airman of the Year for the 119th Fighter Wing) and to my knowledge, no one else in the 119th Wing has that distinction.  I was thrilled to have many friends there, especially my cousin Jason Gapp, who would be joining the ranks a few months later.

Through work, I've also been given the opportunity to gain lots of experience and training.  In June, I went through a week-long certification boot camp, with CompTIA Security+ as the goal.  I successfully stepped into the world of advanced computer security that Friday morning, and found a new passion in the process.  I have decided to pursue computer network penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking, and computer forensics as my ultimate career goal.  October brought sunshine and warm temperatures as I traveled down to Riverside in Southern California for two months for an aircraft maintenance course.  It was a nice break from my regular duties, and also helped me to get an idea of what the future of flight is going to be. (Here's a hint: it's going to involve a lot more computer guys than ever before.)

In my free time, I volunteer as an Assistant Scoutmaster with Boy Scouts of America Troop 203, and as a committee member for BSA Venture Crew 203.  It's always fun going out and camping, and in February, I learned some aspects of camping in the winter at Wilderness Romp.  The boys got to learn how to make a shelter out of snow, and had all kinds of fun sledding.  This year was an especially fun year in Scouting, as the BSA celebrated its 100th anniversary.  In June, I managed to get out of guard drill (as did our vice wing commander!) to go participate in a council-wide centennial celebration at the ND state capitol.  We got to try tomahawk throwing, sit in the Governor's chair, and find geocaches hidden all over the capitol grounds.  And if that wasn't enough, we wrapped up the weekend with a laser light show!  In July, we headed out to Camp Wilderness in near Park Rapids, MN for a week of summer camp.  And if you think I took naps all day, you'd be wrong.  I spent my days in training classes covering everything from teaching effective leadership to performing wilderness first aid (defined as first aid performed when emergency care is two or more hours away).

I've also spent some time outside of work and school training for honor guard duties as part of the Joint Funeral Honors Team of the 119th Wing Base Honor Guard.  This involves training for color guard duties (like you'd see at a sports game), and also funeral honors with the NDNG State Military Funeral Honors Team.  In March, I was able to participate in my first funeral, honoring one of our ANG members who had been Army Guard prior to "going blue."  In June, the day before the BSA centennial celebration, I found myself in Bismarck as part of the funeral honors detail for the viewing of Former ND Governor Art Link.  It was a great privilege to be part of that team, and that once-in-a-lifetime service.

My love life also had a new beginning in May.  A friend of mine introduced me to her sister, Rebecca (Becky).  We hit it off from the start, and have been dating ever since.  We've had lots of fun together, going to a Skillet concert in May, and in December, a NDSU vs. UND Basketball game and the midnight premiere of Tron: Legacy in IMAX.  I also introduced her to my family in July when they were in town for my cousin Peter's wedding.  I'm pleased to report that everyone gets along well, especially Tara and Becky with their mutual love of art and drawing.

Finally, in September, I made a huge new start.  With the help of my excellent realtor, Marc, and a suggestion to look at a house by Becky, I found a place to call my own.  It's nice and cozy with all the essentials close by, and a 5-minute commute to work.  It's also great knowing who to get frustrated at when the lawn doesn't get mowed or the driveway shoveled (Yep, me.).  It's not perfect, but I have big plans for the place, and home project advice is always welcome.  And if you live in the Fargo area and feel the need to destroy something, come on over.  I'm sure I can come up with something.

So there you have it.  2010 is in the can.  Hopefully your year was as fun and full of blessings as mine.  May God bless you in 2011.  Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Friday, November 12, 2010

In Order to See the Future, We Must Look into the Past

I know the following article deviates from the typical topic here, but I was feeling inspired. Enjoy!

Today is Veteran's Day. It's a national holiday that honors the men and women that have served in the Armed Services of the United States of America. To some, it's a day off from work. To others, it's a day to let patriotism shine forth like a beacon. But for me, Veteran's Day holds a special meaning, because I am a third generation service member. As Veteran's Day draws to a close, my mind is drawn to the memories of the greatest servicemen I have ever had the privilege of knowing. My grandfathers, Brig. Gen. Charles Bartholomew, USAF, and PFC John Sauer, USA, and my father, Lt. Col. Bruce Bartholomew, USAF.

Brig. Gen. Charles Bartholomew was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, entering it soon after it's creation as a separate service. He flew a large variety of aircraft to include the F-102, RF-4, and KC-135. He served in the Vietnam War as a reconnaissance pilot, and was the vice commander of Air Force Communications Command. He served 31 years and retired a successful and decorated officer.

PFC John Sauer was drafted into the U.S. Army early in his adult life. He was stationed at an anti-aircraft artillery unit in Texas directly following the end of the Korean War. During his 21 months of active duty, his common sense and the respect he earned from his fellow soldiers helped him achieve a promotion to Private First Class. He was honorably discharged and returned to North Dakota to become a happy and successful dairy farmer.

Lt. Col. Bruce Bartholomew is a logistics officer in the U.S. Air Force. His willingness to learn new things and to think outside of the box have help him become one of only a handful of logistics officers in the entire Air Force with his unique set of talents for managing fuel and energy distribution, the lifeblood of the Air Force. Additionally, his clear expectations and experience in journalism have made him one of the most eloquent and straight-forward leaders of his generation of officers. He served in Saudi Arabia directly following the attack on Khobar Towers, and is currently serving in the middle east in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

There is a common element that has made these men great. They all love God, their country, and their families. They believe in the freedoms of the Constitution, and are willing to fight to keep those freedoms. They are hard working and dedicated to being the best at what they do. They are what makes the U.S. Armed Forces the most powerful military force in the world. And their legacy continues. While my grandfathers are no longer here, their wisdom coupled with the example of my father has influenced my life greatly. I am truly blessed and honored to be able to carry on their lineage as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Tonight, I end my day rendering a well-deserved salute to these 3 men.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Teacher's Pet

This semester, I'm taking a class titled Writing in the Sciences. It's a 300-level general education requirement designed to expose and prepare older college students in the theoretical sciences (i.e. zoology, my major) for preparing research documents and other science related materials. Currently we are studying popular science articles as a means of communication to the public. For one of the assignments, we were asked to read the article For Delphic Oracle, Fumes and Visions and write a short 400-word analysis of it. This morning we received an email from our professor detailing what he thought after reviewing each piece. He specifically mentioned me by name and requested that the class look at my submission as an example of how to write future assignments. What can I say? I guess I was lucky to be raised by parents with journalism degrees.

An Appeals Analysis of For Delphic Oracle, Fumes and Visions

For many people, science writings are cryptic and incomprehensible. However, thanks to popular science writings of the last few decades, scientific research has become increasingly available to the American public. And as the number of average Americans interested in scientific research increases, scientists must learn to respond to these individuals by producing content appealing to them. By looking at what makes popular science articles appealing to the public, we, the students of NDSU, can better determine how to apply this to our own writings, both for English 324 and for any future writings we are asked to do throughout our careers.

According to Ann Penrose and Steven Katz in their book Writing in the Sciences: Exploring Conventions of Scientific Discourse, there are two important appeals that must be made when addressing a public audience. The first they mention is the appeal to a person's sense of wonder (Penrose, 207). The second is to appeal to a person's need for the application of the scientific findings written about (Penrose, 208). We can find examples of both of these appeals being used by William Broad in his article entitled For Delphic Oracle, Fumes and Visions. “For at least 12 centuries, the oracle at Delphi spoke on behalf of the gods,” says Broad, immediately pulling his readers into a culture that is foreign and mystical (Penrose, 340). He later appeals again to the reader's wonder of how science can validate the ancient belief that Delphi had unique characteristic when he states that, “a geologist, an archaeologist, a chemist and a toxicologist have teamed up to produce a wealth of evidence suggesting the ancients had it exactly right.” (Penrose, 340) Having given his readers a taste of amazement, he continues his narrative to explain what these scientists stumbled upon.

But it is in his application appeal that Broad truly shines. In writing about an ancient culture, he links the affects of the gaseous form of ethylene to modern times, saying, “Modern teenagers know of such intoxicants, including ones that in overdoses can kill.” (Penrose, 343) Because of the number of prophecies recorded at Delphi, it is possible for modern scientist to better understand what the total affects of drugs like ethylene are on the human body and psyche. It is also possible for historians to get a better idea of how Grecian culture, and therefore western culture as a whole, was influenced by someone who was both highly influential and, so to speak, high as a kite.

Penrose, A., & Katz, S. (2010). Writing in the sciences: Exploring conventions of scientific discourse (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Longman.

Monday, June 8, 2009

College-level Linux

For those of you that didn't know, I'm back in school. I'm only going part-time which works well with my work schedule. This summer I've been taking Fundamentals of Public Speaking. It's a fun class, and I've been doing well in it. I'm currently working on my second speech of two (gotta love summer classes). Both have been about technological subjects, so I thought I'd share them with you. The following is the first installment. Also, if any of you would like the sources for this speech, let me know and I'll be happy to email them to you.

An Education in Linux -- Formal Outline
Vital Issue Informative Speech
Joshua Bartholomew

Attention Getter: In five years, if you were to walk into a classroom in Hillsboro, ND, what would you see? You would probably expect to see desks, a chalk board, and visual teaching aids hanging from the walls. But what would you think if you saw a computer at every desk? No, this isn't a dream; it's a vision. As we speak, this vision is being realized across the globe, in countries such as Spain and India. This is possible because these countries are using Linux.

Thesis Statement: The use of Linux distributions, like Ubuntu, in personal computing is allowing inexpensive and localized access to students from all backgrounds.

Listener Relevance: The great thing about Linux is that it's free for anyone, including you. I'm sure by now that you're curious as to how I am aware of Linux and its benefits.

Speaker Credibility: For the past two and a half years, I have been a network infrastructure technician with the North Dakota Air National Guard. Among my coworkers, I am unofficially considered one of the subject matter experts specializing in Linux due to my extensive use of it at home.

Preview: By the time I'm finished speaking today, I hope to have conveyed to you a basic understanding of Linux, how Linux can be a beneficial tool for your education, both now and in the future, and how Linux is positively affecting education and industry in third-world developing countries and rural communities.

Transition: Now that we are familiar with the important issues surrounding Linux, let's take a closer look at it. First, I'd like to discuss what Linux is.

First Main Point: Linux is a general term for a number of free operating systems.

First Sub-Point: According to the 2005 edition of The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, some examples of operating systems are, "Microsoft® Windows® or Apple® Computer's OS." Linux is a term for a variety of operating systems that all share the same basic architectural build. Many also have graphic interfaces that are similar to those of Window® and OS X. To better illustrate this, I have Ubuntu, one example of a Linux distribution, running on the computer here. (Demonstrate similarities between Windows and Ubuntu) As you can see, Ubuntu looks and functions much like any other major operating system on the market today.

Second Sub-Point: As I said earlier, it's also free. Canonical, Ltd. is the company responsible for the creation and maintenance of Ubuntu Linux. On their website, which I accessed on the 28th of May, 2009, they claim their mission is to provide widely available software with quality technical support. While Canonical is only one example, there are many other companies and non-profit organizations that share a similar mission.

Transition: We now understand what Linux is and why it is free. For my second point, let's take a look at how Linux could affect your lives as college students in the U.S.

Second Main Point: Linux will start to have effects on the U.S. education system and the workplace, in terms of globalization and monetary cost.

First Sub-Point: In a September 21, 2006 BusinessWeek Article, Nandini Lakshman writes about the Indian state of Kerala, which was in the process of switching all of its computers to a Linux operating system. She says, "That means each of the state's 1.5 million high school students will grow accustomed to working not in... Windows..., but in Linux." This switch is happening in schools across India. As I'll establish in a few moments, this is not an isolated case. Many governments are starting to implement similar programs, which, in the near future, could cause hiccups in our current trade and telecommunication practices. In ten years, the average U.S. employee could be required to have some basic Linux experience to help deal with the lack of Windows® knowledge in other nations.

Second Sub-Point: However, thanks to a proliferation of inexpensive computers preloaded with Linux operating systems, experience with Linux should not be hard to come by. In fact, they will also make it possible for users like you to replace to your system every few years, allowing you to keep up with current advancements in technology. According to Erica Ogg in her CNET® News article published on January 24, 2008, Wal-mart has been having great success selling the Everex gPC. This computer runs a version of Ubuntu 7.10 and sells at Wal-Mart for $198. To give you a true sense of the affect of Linux on the overall cost of PCs, I wandered over to the Dell website. (Show price comparison on slide.) On identical computers, there's a $500 difference.

Transition: So now that I've shown you what Linux is and how it could affect your education and future career, let's take a look at how it's affecting education around the world.

Third Main Point: Linux is positively affecting education in third-world and developing countries.

First Sub-Point: Schools are implementing changeovers to Linux to increase technological literacy in low-income regions. In an article published on Nov. 3, 2002 in the Washington Post, Ariana Cha describes a region of Spain known as Extremadura, whose government has developed its own distribution of Linux. She states that the software has been distributed to schools and communities around the region, and that, "Organizers regard the drive as a low-cost way to bring technology to the masses in the impoverished region."

Second Sub-Point: Schools are also implementing changeovers to Linux to avoid prosecution for using pirated versions of Windows. The BBC News website, edited by Steve Herrmann, published an article on October 9, 2007 quoting the Director General of the Company ALTLinux, Alexey Smirnov, as saying "'that schools formerly tended to run illegal copies of Microsoft operating systems, but..." recently "...schools began to be prosecuted for doing so." Alexey also said that, " much software was being used, [buying licences] proved too expensive... so the decision was taken to use free software."

Thesis Restatement: The use of Linux distributions, like Ubuntu, in personal computing is allowing inexpensive and localized access to students from all backgrounds.

Main Point Summery: Today, I've talked to you about what Linux is, how Linux is making computers very affordable among U.S. college students, and how it's use on school computers in third-world developing countries and rural communities is helping to expand their technology industries.

Clincher: Give a man fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to use Linux; educate his country for a lifetime.

Friday, May 1, 2009

There's A Lesson Here, Okay?

If you've never worked a night shift in your life, it can get rather dull. It turns out that, during the week, most of Fargo sleeps between the hours of 12 to 6 AM. If you didn't know already, I work weekend nights, which means I'm one of those rare people that's actually awake at 2AM on Tuesdays. In fact, that's about the halfway point of my "weekend." Because of this unusual schedule, and the subsequent lack of fellow mortals to interact with, I have to be a bit creative when trying to find things to do.

I'm not one that likes to hang out with the vampires, so I'm generally on my computer or watching TV. However, late night TV is similar to banging your head against a wall at best, so I record my shows on my DVR. One of my favorite shows is on Food Network, around 7PM Central. It's called Good Eats, and it's hosted by Alton Brown(AB). I'm sure some of you might recognize that name as the host of Iron Chef: America, and indeed he is. But to limit your exposure to AB to just Iron Chef is, well... Like smelling a pizza. Sure you get the aroma of the cheese and herbs, but you don't get to experience the full depth of texture, or the contrast of flavors from the sauce and the crust. Let me show you what you are missing.

My dad once described AB as the Bill Nye of food. While Good Eats is a cooking show, it's unlike any other cooking show I've seen. Ever heard of capsaicin, the molecule that makes peppers hot, refered to as lock pick? No? Well, then you'll need to watch Chile's Angels, the episode about chile peppers. AB brings a lot to his show. He starts with a food or type of produce, talks about the origins and ancient use of the food, and describes how to find quality products to make the recipes he highlights. He also discusses kitchen equipment, and trys to find "multitaskers," items that can be used for more than one thing. He brings in diagrams and models to help explain the scientific principles he's going over. And all the while he does it with a lot of humor.

So, I hope I've inspired to look beyond the television as a means of just entertainment, and to use it to it's full culinary potential. So what if AB is a geeky, or his show is like a science fair for food. At the end of the day, somewhere between your empty plate, your delighted tongue, and your full stomach, you'll know that Alton and I helped you get your hands on some seriously good eats. See you next time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You Say His Blogger's Facebook Twittered Myspace?

Social Networking. Off the top of my head I can't think of two words that cause as much disdain and as much guilty pleasure as those two. Studies have come out that Facebook users have lower GPAs. Politicians have been slammed for Twittering during the State of the Union address rather than paying attention to the President. So, you'd think that any person with an ounce of productivity in his blood would quickly turn the other way when confronted by the vast array of status updating tools, right? Wrong.

Let's take me for instance. (Did you really think I would talk about someone else in my blog?) I used to love getting on Facebook to waste time between classes when I should have been doing homework. But times have changed, and now I'm all about being productive. That's where social networking comes in. How? By forgetting the social aspect of it, and focusing on the networking part. Part of being productive is knowing who to talk to when you need help on a subject. Thanks to Facebook, I have a vast array of experts in various fields at my fingertips. Another aspect of being productive is comprehending the values of people you would like to emulate or make a good impression on. I follow the Twitter feeds of Curt (our office's networking genious), Leo Laporte (a tech journalist who always seems to be on top of the newest technology), and Fr. Roderick (a priest from the Netherlands who manages 4-5 parishes and serves as CEO of SQPN, a multi-national podcasting cooperation with dozens of shows). By following these people, I start to discover how they are able to complete the things they have to do, and still make time for the things that are important to them. I also learn more about their sources of inspiration and where they go to keep up with the news. Lifehacker had an article about how following your boss' Twitter feed can help your career. The last aspect of productivity is conveying your own values. I am a huge advocate for the smart use of time, and right now I'm conveying that to you. But, even better, by integrating Facebook and Blogger, I'm able to write my thoughts once and reach people that might only use one or the other. Facebook and twitter have the ability to update each other as well, keeping my friends abreast of what I'm doing on the go.

So, the moral of this story? Stop wasting time on social networking sites with silly apps and useless stalking. Use these sites to your advantage. And when you can, integrate them together for power networking. You'll find the pleasure still intact, but without the guilt. You'll thank yourself, your friends and family will thank you, and I'll thank you. Unless I'm working on something more pressing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Running with Priests.

Springtime is finally upon us here in the far north. I took the opportunity this morning to go for a run out in the fresh air. Not only did I need the air and exercise after being cooped up all winter in my apartment, but the Air Force PT test is coming up in as little as next month. I'm still trying to figure out what is going on inside the heads of the people that organize this thing.

Anyway, that wasn't what I wanted to write about. While I was on my run, I was listening to a podcast, Healthy Catholic - Episode 1. It stuck me about halfway, right before I turned around, as to what an accomplishment it was to be listening to that. Obviously we've had transmitted voice for decades, and some type of widespread portable recorded technology since the 1970s. But, there I was, listening to a Catholic priest from the Netherlands in Europe on a device that was no bigger than two of my fingers. Fascinating.