Selling the ol’ Winnebego

We are willing to part with our 29′ 1979 Winnebego. An interesting attribute is that it has a very solid roof that you could use for a variety of things. Storage, watching the NASCAR races, set the band up there or just read books like my daughter does. Do not attempt to jump on the roof of a modern RV, you’ll crash right through!

Click here to see our Craiglist post

Ode to my Mom

Ode to Pat Fieser

by Jim Fieser

Raphael and Viola,had a daughter they named Pat,
around Kirkwood Missouri,
where the land is not so flatRaphael’s health was bad,
Dr. said “Seek Clean Air”
They moved to Wilhelmina,
not for managed health care.

No buses, phone or fridge:
Pat missed these luxuries.
But after Rafe was gone,
They owed no utilities.

The day Pat turned 16,
Against the wishes of her Mother,
She moved to St. Louis
To make money for the others.

Finding work was tough,
With so few qualifications
She stretched the truth a bit
On employment applications.

One job she took was
In a Hospital
To the health profession
She strongly felt the call

Pat met Bob in her 20’s.
Tom was a mutual friend,
Told Pat a story of Bob’s conquests
Bob said, “You believed him?”

April 28, 1956
Our family got it’s start,
Here in Wilhelmina
At the church of Sacred Heart.

Mary Lea was first born.
But stayed not long with them.
Then in a span of 5 years,
Came Steve, Karen, Dan and Jim

They moved around a bit’Tween Memphis & St. Lou
Lost the home of their dreams
When the refrigerator blew.

When she had the kids
Away from a water source
She would lick a Kleenex
And wipe them down by force!

She drove the bus & met trucks
When they delivered The Club it’s ale.
She was the very first woman
To carry Dunklin Co. mail.

She’d work a job and be nice,
No matter how mean the boss,
Trying to keep her family,
Insured with that Blue Cross.

She worked at Three Rivers.
Later went to RN school there,
She fell in ‘Disco Roller Skating’
And broke her derriere! 1

A 2 year degree makes passing
The Nursing exam very hard,
But Mom passed the first time,
By knowing every drug card.

She enjoyed the VA job
on the Nursing Home Floor
Was called to Hospice care
Helping folks through their Final Door.

She helped a lot of people
Through Life’s Valley’s and Hills
With loving care & concern,
And her communication skills.

1True story. Three Rivers Community College offered thisclass for PE Credit and Mom broke her tailbone the first day.

Ode to Uncle John

As a child he was taunted, But he as able to transcend,
At Waffle House and Berkempers He sure made a lot of friends.

We left our PlayDoh cylinder on the table; wasn’t our fault,
That John stopped in & left a note, “This dough has too much salt.”

John liked to argue politics, In his attempt to educate,
If you agreed with his view, He’d switch to spur debate.

If you needed help from John, All you had to do was ask,
He taught me by example To accept most any task.

John took lots of jobs, That others wouldn’t take,
Told me if I quit college It’d be a huge mistake.

His faith in God drew him, To where daily mass was said,
He prayed not for himself, I think, But for each of us instead.

It’s not too late to ask John To help you with a favor,
There’s no doubt where he is now, With our Lord and Savior.

14th Anniversary Poem

I got up early this morning, thinking about my bride of these 0.7 score years and jotted down these lines:

Early on in our marriage,
I worked, you pushed the carriage.
Later ABC,
Swung the ax at me,
Before retirement age.

We had said that we’d change roles,
You would work, I would bake rolls.
‘Problem with that map,
Is I ain’t cleaned crap,
Done Laundry, dish’s or killed moles.

Recruiters have been calling,
Opportunities’re falling.
B’ Tax & Insurance
Would eat the difference:
I should do chores where I’m stalling.

I know what I should do,
To make it up to you.
I’ll teach our 3 kids
To wash pots & lids-
We’ll be a cookin’ cleanin’ crew!

Happy Anniversary Ann!


Baby Kitty’s Weight Problem

Ann had our oldest son weigh the cat the other day. Kate aka “Baby Kitty” weighs in at over 17 lbs. Ann called her “Fat Cat”, but I covered her ears and said, “Don’t label her!”


Ann said the cat and I must have the same diet and exercise regimen. I said, “Hey, at least I started flushin’!”

Mom and Dad’s 50th

We celebrated my parent’s 50th anniversary this weekend in Cape Girardeau. They had to drive up from Wilhelmina, but so many relatives now live in STL, and my brother and sister and their families are in Cape County, it just worked out great to be in Cape.

Aunt Lois commissioned the following poem from poet Vivian Barks. I wish I’d written it, but at least I was able to step up to the mike and read it aloud for our extended family nubering ~100.

A card I recieved in the mail today,
Saying a Golden Anniversary is on the way.
April 30th – it did say,
Come and Join us on this special day.
For Pat and Bob, both loving and kind,
A happier couple you could not find.
Fifty years – they have been as one,
April 28th – their new life begun.
Pat with her sweet and witty charm,
and Bob with his heart set on the farm.
Working together, side-by-side
Knowing their marriage would survive.
And to this union, God saw fit,
To put 4 childeren in the midst of it.
Three boys, one girl; bundles of joy
Was sent for Pat and Bob to enjoy.
To raise them in the nurture of God,
And teach them the right road to trod.
As in that love story long ago,
“Wherever thou goest – I will go”
Togather you’ve been through thick and thin,
To know you’ll endure to the end.
Life get’s better along the way,
When you put your faith in God each day.
So Congratulations! may I say,
As you celebrate this beautiful day.
“God Bless you both”, is my prayer,
And may “He” keep you in “His” care.

It was a great party with lots of friends and family we had not seen in years. My God-daughter had been up late assembling a slide show of old photos from an album my sister had put together. Brother Dan had plenty of tunes, a few from their wedding.

We had to pose for a few photos and as the crowd around Mom and Dad expanded to include more family someone thought we should turn sideways and form a smaller frame. Unfortunately, turning sideways didn’t help, in fact we had to step out a bit!

Invention Idea

My oldest son had a great idea for an invention today. He even found a web site that takes invention ideas and typed it in. Trouble was that the web site required users to be 18 and he’s just 11, so they wouldn’t take it. I think it’s a fine idea, so I’m going to publish it on the web for him.

This is how he answered the web site questions.

My idea for a new product is…

a mix between a nintendow controler and a gameboy. It has an “A” and a “B” button on the back and the control stick on the front of the handle. It kind of looks like one of those handheld fishing toys but it plays gameboy games. It will be very comfortable unlike treo or a regular gameboy. You can play it in one hand so it can be more confortable, easier, and relaxing.

I came up with my idea when I was…

in the bathroom. I was plaing my gameboy when my hand started aching. so I turned it off and started thinking about other gaming divices. I thouht of a nintendow thing and still had my mind on the gameboy. so I thought “What if I combined these two things two make one.” I put them together in my mind and came up with a one handle gameboy.

I don’t know enough about these controllers to know if his idea has real merit or not. I do know I can’t afford to bankroll research on these game devices, or invest in a decent patent lawyer. But I’m still proud of the inventive spirit he has. What makes me swell with hope for him is that he has the honesty not to indicate that he’s 18.

I took him to the University of Missouri this morning for Saturday Morning Sciencea talk they had invited kids to. This Saturday the talk was on Radiopharmaceuticals. I expected him to enjoy the bagels, but he listened in and even doodled several technical terms.

The middle child, 7, came as well. He tired of the language and subject matter, but was content to simply snuggle with his old man. They both enjoy parking at the top of the 6 floor parking garage so they can run up the stairs and leave me wheezing far behind. It is good exercise, for all of us.

They wanted to hurry home to play with the Vex Robot kit we have borrowed from 4-H. In my haste to play with them, I forgot to take one kid to his 4-H Citizenship project and arrived hopelessly late.

I am trying to assist in the development of a Robotics project. We assembled the simplest unit today which is basically a skid steer, radio controlled car. It’s fun for starters, but I’m looking forward to having it perform more logic.

It is the logic of processing input and responding to it that makes it a robot. I was taught that a mouse trap is a robot; it senses that the quarry is in the vulnerable position and snaps the trap. A thermostat also is a robot that senses the temperature of the room and reponds accordingly, turning the furnace on or off. The valve that senses the level of water in the toilet tank and automatically turns it off is another example. In modern computing, a robot is a program that seeks information on the web to store it in a search engine database.

All of those jobs would be boring or impossible without these devices: imagine waiting for the mouse to come along so you could spring the trap on him. How successful are you likely to be when the mouse can sense that you are near? Expanding the participants view of robotics to include these simple devices would be a key goal of a successful Robotics project.

We can only hope that the kids who take a 6-hour Robotics project will be a little more prepared to use, adapt or invent technology to improve their world.

Mission from God

Yesterday, my oldest brother Steve and I were sent on a “Mission from God” reminiscent of the old Blues Brothers movie. The Catholic school we attended 30 years ago had some furniture from a donor in Kansas City and required our unique talents to deliver these items. The unique talents Steve brought included his willingness to fund the excursion, drive nearly 1,000 mi. and his ability to borrow a pickup from one friend and a 5th wheel stock trailer from another. Me? I was willing to take a day off work for a good cause and shove some furniture around with my brother.

Steve drove up to stay with my family in Columbia Wednesday and read to my kids at bedtime. Early Thursday we drove to KC and met Mary, another St. Teresa alumni and the cousin of the current principle, at a warehouse. She brought a teenage neighbor to help us load. Items donated included 7 heavy fire-proof cabinets, a refrigerator and 2 conference room tables, one of them >20 ft. long.

As with any adventure, some things don’t work out the way you planned. We didn’t expect the stock trailer to be as old as it was and had anticipated features like brakes or at least brake lights to be functional. We had also not expected it to be padded with straw and horse crap. The truck however, donated to our cause byGreg Hobbs, performed admirably and could easy out-pace my 73 Charger pulling a 28 foot trailer. It sustained some damage when some wimp in an H2 Hummer insisted that Steve move the truck around the tiny lot: the tailgate was down and was torn off by the trailer.

There was ample opportunity to talk to my brother and explore the myriad of similarities and differences that make us family. We both have kids in Catholic schools: that we have in common. It’s politically that we differ. He brought up the high cost of fuel and I mentioned ExxonMobile’s $10B profit last quarter. Steve mused, “That’s going to make it challenging to elect another Oil-Man President.” God, he makes me laugh.

We filled the trailer with chairs, tables and dry erase boards and he had me back to work in Columbia by 1:30 in the afternoon. He still had 300 miles to go, but as far as I was concerned it was: Mission Accomplished.

Checksum Mitigates Network Risks

Checksums are used to make ethernet communications robust. I’ll attempt to explain how that works and why leveraging checksums in a network qualification is efficient and effective.

Practically every packet of information passed in an ethernet network is carefully checked for accuracy and, if the test fails, the system automatically requests the packet be resent. Ethernet devices like the network interface cards (NIC) in computers follow strict guidelines and communication protocols before passing data from the network on to the computer.

While an ethernet device prepares a packet of data to be sent over the ethernet, it uses an algorithm to create a checksum from that data. The checksum cannot be used to re-create the data, but it is used to ensure that the data is identical to the original data that formed the packet.
sack0You might ask, “How can the checksum can be part of the data packet it is a checksum of?” The data is like the contents of a sack of lunch and the receipt is the checksum. The receiving network card is designed to separate the datagram from the header and checksum portions of the packet and perform the test: just like I have no problem separating the paper from my lunch.

Ethernet networks like the internet were designed to provide for this kind of inherent testing so the infrastructure would not need to be dis-assembled for testing. The components with the greatest risk of failure are not the wires and fibers but the interface cards and devices that they connect.

Inherent testing assures that tests include the network translation devices including the connection interface where the “rubber meets the road” so to speak. It is critical that the tests include these connections “in situ” since even a tiny piece of lint can scatter the light in fiberoptic connections or increase resistance in copper connections.

The checksum tests are embedded in the underlying protocols that define how data are sent over the network. They cannot be turned off by end users or adjusted to allow a percentage of error: any anomaly requires a resend of the entire packet. Persistant failures result in a complete loss of communication, not deilvery of inaccurate information.
sack1Let’s say that someone offers to drive to town and get a lunch for me. If my goal is to mitigate the risk that they deliver an inaccurate lunch, I can approach the problem from two angles:
I could check their car over and carefully survey the road surface for the route I expect they will travel.
Or, knowing that they might take either the Interstate or the county road, I could just wait until they return and check the receipt (i.e. checksum) against the contents of my lunch sack. If one BYTE is missing from my hamburger, the checksum test will fail and I’ll send them back for another entire packet, er I mean, sack lunch.

With the checksum approach there is an opportunity for a slow lunch delivery – especially if I keep sending them back until they no longer eat part of my lunch – but the risk I wanted to mitigate was the opportunity for an inaccurate lunch. Testing the wire and fiber components of the infrastructure don’t do anything to assure the integrity of the packets delivered: if they don’t precisely match the checksum they will never be delivered.

So, how can we quantitatively determine the state of our network infrastructure from the NIC of the server to the NIC of the client PC and include any other ethernet data acquisition devices without unplugging anything? We could add up the number of resend requests that are sent when data packets fail the checksum test. Switches and hubs have been designed to track such success parameters as that for many years. Investments made to report this data would surely provide a return by empowering the organization to track and trend the true health of the network.

Reports and summaries of packet failures are nice, but not necessary to leverage the power of the checksum in network qualification documents. All that is needed there is a savvy explanation of how all your network devices checksum essentially every ethernet* packet for quality and automatically requests the data be resent on error.

Hopefully this blog entry will assist you in that task.** You are welcome to use any part of it without reference but please leave me a comment if it has been helpful or entertaining. You are welcome to reference the work in it’s permanent archive:

* Note that the checksum cited here does not apply to non-ethernet protocols like RS-232 and RS-485 serial communications. Implementations of serial and other connections require some other means of qualifying accuracy.

** The author is not responsible or liable for misuse or interpretation of the information presented here: USE AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Keep IT Simple

Working in an IT dept. of a medium-sized business, we are often asked to “integrate” a couple of applications. The requestors may or may not have gone through the research necessary to the specify the integration they need. They may already have both applications, and they can specify the fields from one product that they simply want replicated to another, but upon furthur questioning, may still want either application to be used to enter these records and, of course, both applications should syncronize automatically. These “random integrations” can consume large amounts of time and may never fully satisfy the requester before one application needs an upgrade.

Unless the IT dept. has lots of time to spare, the only hope for success is to keep the project as simple as possible. Find out the ultimate goal of the requested integration. If management requires reports that include information from two distinct data sources; it may be possible to write a report that organizes information from both sources. That is a lot less work than to augment records from one source into another application. It’s also less likely to require extensive attention when either application is upgraded: it is simply a combined report. (Labor saving integrations will be discussed another day.)

For instance, let’s say you have one program that tracks employee’s time toward projects, and another accounting program that tracks income and expenses other than labor to these projects. The obvious report required would answer the question, “Which projects are making/losing money?” It may be a lot easier to combine data from both sources into a single report than to incorporate records from one database to another to effect the same report.

It may also provide more current data to leave the original databases alone. If users enter their time every day, a combined report would be updated daily. But if the accounting system gets an infusion of their time only at the end of a payroll period, then management would only see current data around payday.

Old data is of little use: even management cannot change the past. The more critical timing is, the less we want to rely on direct replication of records from one database to another. It’s also so much simpler: what will happen when a record that has already been replicated gets changed?

So there you have a case for keeping it simple.