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Advice for service members separating to join the civilian sector

I'll likely edit this over time as I come up with different things, but here goes:

Document every ache, pain, and problem you have physically or mentally. It may not be a problem now, while you are in, but if it develops into something debilitating down the line you may be covered by VA health care.

Get a fresh paper copy of your medical record, your wife's medical record, and your wife's OB records. And your kids. And dental. Don't give these copies away. Keep them. Make copies of them for your future doctors.

Don't be ashamed to file for any and all disability. I'm currently rated 30% due to depression (due to being fat and getting kicked out of the navy), ringing of the ears (tinnitus), and hip pain and mobility limitation due to a car accident while I was in. That disability rating pays for my VGLI, and my gas to and from work each month.

GET VGLI. Don't let it lapse. Don't forget, or put it off, or think it's not worth it. Too often my friends in the civilian world have left their jobs, or gotten new jobs, or started private small business ventures, then one of them suffered medical problems or even passed away. It's a benefit that veterans have earned and too few have taken advantage of. My wife regrets letting her lapse.

Copy all your records. I keep a copy of all my evaluations, awards, etc. in a dropbox folder inside my google drive, triple + redundancy.

Keep a copy of your DD-214 with you. I keep mine, again, in digital form in my dropbox in my google drive. I can usually print it right from my phone or show it to someone if necessary on the phone.

Keep in touch with your network of contacts in the Navy, including some of your previous superiors. I think that's one that I'm more sad about than anything. My Senior Chiefs and Chief's I'd like to be able to get in touch with weren't part of the facebook age. LinkedIn is good, Togetherweserved is garbage, but I keep an account there as well.

Get a professional picture of yourself in uniform with your current/highest rank (while it still fits).

Don't be afraid to ask for help in transitioning to civilian terminology. It's a whole different world out here.

By now you are used to being the top dog, go to guy for everything. Be prepared to get treated like a Dinq Nub for quite a while. All ears, ask for clarification.

Get instructions/expectations in writing from your superiors for a while in the civilian world. Sometimes I would overdo or undershoot project expectations because I was expecting one result and my boss another.
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Amazon product review: Autobot medium & large emblems

This is my review for the Autobot emblems on sale on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005AK6JBE/

http://www.amazon.com/Transformers-Autobots-Aluminum-Large-Emblem/dp/B004H65JZ4/

Here are the two shortly after installation:

http://imgur.com/a/sBu5U#2 (medium)

http://imgur.com/a/sBu5U#4 (medium)

http://imgur.com/a/sBu5U#3 (large)


and here they are 8 months later:

http://imgur.com/a/sBu5U#8 (medium)

http://imgur.com/a/sBu5U#9 (medium)

Color fades in sunlight. Drove approx 25,000 miles in Oklahoma, August - April.

May do better with either clear coat or uv protection.

Larger emblem, currently sold out, before and after, installed on back:

http://imgur.com/a/sBu5U#7 (large)

Much less fade.

After 10 months, 30,000 miles in Oklahoma, August - June, there is zero color left on the side mounted medium emblems, and some color left on the large emblem on my trunk.
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My thoughts on joining the Naval Nuclear Power pipeline

Almost fifteen years ago I joined the navy with Jen, enrolled in the Naval Nuclear Power program. If I were asked 'should my relative join the navy nuclear power program?' this is my response.

Read the wiki, it's pretty good: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_Power_School

My recruiter was pretty honest with me. Bootcamp would suck: part physical, part mind game. During bootcamp, as a male recruit, I was given the opportunity to volunteer for submarine services. One thing they tell you when you are there is that you're only volunteering, it doesn't mean you will definitely get in. Unless you are physically disqualified from sub service, this is not true. You will be a submariner if you volunteer at that point. Sub sailors get a bit higher pay at the expense of quality of life. The hardest part of boot camp is the mind game. The division commanders are not your friend, nor your enemy. They're sailors who have been in only a few years more than you, and they're trying to filter out the punks, assholes, and people who aren't fit for military service while getting you into shape. You will be at your peak physical condition after boot camp. You will likely never again be in better shape.

A-School: It depends on how you are at 'high speed' schooling. I went to a college prep middle and high school. I stopped and went to a public school for my last semester of high school. Public high school does not prepare you at all for the level of information they throw at you in NNPTC. A-school is relatively simple: No reactor physics. Just mechanical, electric, or electronics, with a heavy dose of math (from addition/subtraction to early calculus 2). 1 hour of physical fitness, 4 hours of classroom, cafeteria lunch, 4 hours of classroom, 2-6 hours of study/homework. A-School is an extension of high school, and the next step in filtering out people.

Between A-school and power school is likely the first time you'll be able to take leave (or vacation) and go home, or about 26 week after you left home. The next few weeks you will wait until the next power school class up begins.

Power School is where the physics and reactor information gets thrown at you. 6 months of schooling, similar to A-School schedule. You will be presented with new materials of study on actual reactor design theory. But that's all you get presented in this school, theory. NPTU, or prototype, is your next stop. The Boy Scouts of America really do provide a top notch preparation for the military's qualification program. NPTU is there to ensure you are able to learn the Navy qualification process. Your job there is to qualify to operate as either a mechanical, electrical, or reactor operator, depending on your rate. Qualifications cards give you checklists of things you need to learn. For each item, you need to learn the basics of each part of the system in question, it's block diagram or higher level drawing, it's function, and it's interactions with other systems. The important part isn't the information... it's learning how to find the info quickly in a book, regurgitate it, get assigned followup questions, and repeat.

Joining as a nuke does not guarantee service as a nuke. When we went through, about 10% of the recruits who signed up as nukes didn't make it through boot camp. A similar amount dropped out at A-school, another 10% or so at Power School, and around 5% didn't make it through prototype. By the end of the pipeline, we're down to ~68.5% of the number of people who signed up for the program. About 8-10% of navy recruits qualify for the nuclear program, but only 3% of the navy is actively in the program.

Your first year on ship is a repeat of prototype: Qualifications. You are the bottom of the barrel. You will spend time washing dishes, cleaning/busing tables, ejecting trash, doing crap mess work, on the scale of months. Simultaneously you will need to make progress towards qualifications. Your tracking will be percentage complete over time, with a difficult to achieve goal rate. This is a hard time on any sailor. You're away from home, away from your friends/classmates from the last year and a half, away from shore potentially. Your future friends, your division mates? You are holding one of their billets, but not supporting their duties... You are now a NUB, or Non useful body.

You should complete ship qualifications in under 12 months, fully qualified nuclear by 18 months on board. At this point, you're at the top of your game. 4 ish years in, with only 2 years to go. This is when they'll hit you up for star-reenlistment. If you haven't made E-5 yet, they will offer it to you, for a 4 year re-enlistment. They will, however, drop 2 of your initial 6 year obligation off, for a total of 8 years required. Over 50% of nukes that make it this far do it. Oh, about 10% of the nukes that made it through school never finish their first required 6 years. And if you drop out during a-school, power school, or prototype, you still owe the full 6 years you signed up for, but without any of the extra benefits.

Every enlisted sailor should, during this period, be tracking his work for the related civilian field. I, for example, was an electrician. I should have been recording journeyman hours for my training and work. Always have an exit strategy. After completion of your senior in rate qualifications, that is the time to take advantage of schooling, if possible. Use any tuition assistance given, but don't over-reach.

During your time in the Navy, you will meet some of the most incredible people you can imagine. Some, not for the better. Looking back at it, it's not the job or the training I miss, it's the people. You can grow closer to your shipmates than you do with some siblings. The sad thing is, it's a constant cycle of new people coming, and older people going. Being 30 years old in the Navy is OLD. The service is full of adult children. It's not something that you think of when you're 18 and joining... you don't see yourself as only a kid. Now, I see people that were my age thinking of joining a service and I want to scream at them, You're just a KID!

One of the worse things I remember of the nuclear power program was the lack of integrity. Cheating on academics, at every level, from boot camp to qualifications to nuclear certification examinations underway. People usually get caught, but not right away. It was so rampant that it was almost justified by those who had been in for a while. I hope things have changed since I've gotten out, but I doubt it.

Another problem is the retention: The military isn't good about keeping good people. They tend to keep people who are too afraid to venture out into the real world. The incompetent can get promoted simply because there isn't a large volume of good people that stay in. There are, of course, exceptions... but not as many as I'd want to be.

Much of the work you do is simply because the paperwork needs to be generated. Work, for the sake of work. Working hours for Just In Case. Cleaning for 6 hours because that's the way it's been done for decades, and that's the way it will continue to be done.

After serving for 8 years, my family was started. When I left the service I was not able to jump in and go use my MGIB. I had a family to take care of. I was able to get a good job coming out as a field service technician. I drove around my state and surrounding states, travelling, paid windshield time. Now I work at the 'best company in America' taking care of building maintenance. I get paid well, in the top % of the World, but at a cost.

Enlisted Nuke is NOT the easiest way to become an officer. I think that was one of the biggest lies I heard from others in the program. Going to college and joining as an officer is the easiest way to become an officer.

I'll add to this and edit it as time goes on.
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Days like today

I don't know what I'm doing. Really. I've got 15 some odd years in my field of work, if you can call all of it work in my field. Every step I make "up" seems like a step further away from knowing what the frick I'm doing on a day to day basis. I've got maybe an hour of work scheduled for me between now and the end of the month. I know that I'll likely get another 4-8 hours added in either Friday or Monday, but that's it.

They are pushing us here to generate more work, because we are going to expand soon, and we need to justify needing more people. Thing is, we don't have that much going on right now. We're at that sweet spot after finding and fixing all the major kinks, before stuff actually starts really breaking down needing repaired or replaced.

I've spent the better part of the past two and a half weeks working in Sketchup on a design idea for an angled tool. It's nothing spectacular, really.

I haven't had a one-on-one in over six weeks now. Close to seven. These are 20 minute disussions with our immediate supervisor with whatchudoin, whatyurgonnado, and what they want you to do. I certainly haven't been performing well at work.

I just hate doing what amounts to useless busywork. I find excuses for myself to not do it.

I was feeling sick to my stomach with dread this morning. I beat myself up the entire drive to work. Once I got here, I went straight to a couch and took a half hour nap. Cleared my head a bit, but I still haven't gotten the ball rolling.

Argh.
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Custom late-90's Saturn Autobot logo

I'm looking to have some custom Autobot logos made up for my Saturn, so I mocked up a design:



I found a site that would make them for me: http://www.emblemart.com/

I received this reply:

"I discussed your idea with our design team.

Take a look at the material that we use at www.emblemart.com/chromeemblems.html

It looks like the size of the emblem is 3 square inches.

3 square inches times 30 emblems is 90 square inches.

The quote is as follows:

Set up and rendering fee $70.00
First 50 sq. in. ($3.00/ sq in) $150.00
Second 40 sq. in. ($2.00/ sq in) $80.00
Total quote $520.00
Let us know how you would like to proceed."

Is that math off, or is it just me?
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Minecraft...

So, there's this game I've played for the last 22 months or so called Minecraft. Great little game, can be lots of fun. But... It's wearing on me.

I started playing Minecraft around September 2010, shortly after http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/9/17, during the free alpha weekend (Alpha 1.1.1). It was a small indie developed game. A bunch of my friends from a forum I frequent were playing, talking about it in Mumble.

I created my account and got lost in the world of blocks. Something so monotonous and tedious as building huts and geometric shapes had a ridiculous draw for me. I could mine and punch trees for hours and feel well sated, gaming wise.

After a few months, I threw my hat into the ring of server administration. Through this game I was able to pick up a whole set of skills that I had never really taken the time to learn. Linux remote server control, bash scripting, python scripting, basic network security. I was beginning to branch out and learn what I had wanted to learn back during high school.

During this time I also transitioned from my previous job as a field service technician at ASCO, where I worked on emergency power systems, to a data center facilities technician at Google.

My minecraft server grew to occupy a very large amount of my free time. It also started encroaching on my family time, my work time. Minecraft server administration was available to me on my phone! I could chat with players in game via IRC, or by McMyAdmin console, while sitting around, while eating dinner with my family, while taking a crap, whenever!

I acquired alternate accounts for my children. They loved playing the game, but frequently my youngest, only 7, would ask questions to which I didn't want to answer. "Dad, what does FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU mean?" I tried to create a safe environment for them to play on, by giving them access to my server, by trying to implement a set of rules that would allow for them to safely play.

Still, they know how to google other servers as easily as the next kid. They wanted to branch out. They took to playing on mini-game servers, like capture the flag, hunger games, and the like. I considered locking down their access to only servers I know of, but … locking down my home internet is an arms race I don’t want to start just yet. My oldest is 12... I may already be too late.

With each iteration of the Minecraft game, there comes a period of time when customized server software lags behind the vanilla client. My first experience of this was as a user. The server I played on was running hey0 modified. I updated my client and couldn’t get on the server I wanted to play on. It was incredibly frustrating.

This frustration increased exponentially when i started server administration. When a new beta client would release, first I had to wait for a new version of the server to update. During these periods my inbox would get flooded with emails asking why the server was down, why they couldn’t get in.

Once the server modifications were completed and a build released, it was bug hunting time. How many plugins broke with this update? I would wait additional time for plugin authors to update their plugins to the newest build of craftbukkit. During this period, frequently a plugin author or two would drop off the face of the earth. One of the main features of my server was it’s Biome-terrain modded world. Initially the plugin was initially written by Buycress in late 2010, who disappeared from the internet in December 2010, then picked up by R-T-B and rebranded Phoenix Terrain Mod, who had to put it down at the loss of a family member, and was picked up by Khoon, Cayoriaon, and mysource, rebranded this time as Terrain-Control Mod.

This is only one example of a plugin/mod that has changed hands multiple times. The original authors each expressed a desire to come back to their creations, but were unable to step back in due to the amount of changes they missed out on. This has occurred multiple times with various plugins. Feel free to help me out in the comments with any you can think of.

In Feburary of 2012 Mojang announced the acquisition of the Bukkit team. I was overjoyed with the hopes that the Minecraft API would be developed and implemented. There is already a huge number of mods available, ranging from the silly to the incredible. Check out some on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/results?q=minecraft+mod+showcase or one of my favorites, Sonic Ethers Unbelievable Shaders: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6mbYM1oMpo.

With the impending release of 1.3, ALL of these mods will require at least a tweaking update. The changelist for 1.3 is not a small one. But, no matter what, it will require that all minecraft mods go through at least one more hoop before being future-compatible.

I was angry with this release. I was infuriated by Jeb’s tweet about redstone command blocks: https://twitter.com/jeb_/status/228848952240373761

What does this honestly add to the game that is not already created and implemented by the modding community? Craftbukkit servers have had a variety of solutions from command signs to command blocks and buttons. Instead of working towards a universal minecraft modding api, instead a new feature was added to minecraft vanilla. Every new feature added to vanilla COULD be added in the future via the MCAPI.

As such, I grow weary. With every update I spend more time seeking out replacement plugins for those whose developers drop off, alternatives that better fit the intent behind the game. I’ve lost the time I had to interface with my community. I rarely play Minecraft anymore. When online I spend most of my time looking at whatever cool thing a player has built, bug fixing, rolling back griefing, settling arguments, correcting plugin bugs or permissions errors...

I don’t feel like I’m alone here. I’d like to hear other MC admins chime in on their feelings. I know some of these opinions will not be the same as mine.

I’ll stick out the 1.3 update for now, but at this point I am seriously considering shuttering my servers doors.
Happy

My Computer January 2012

Previous Build: http://waygroovy.livejournal.com/170906.html

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/45x2

Cooler Master HAF 912 ATX Mid Tower Case
Cooler Master 700W ATX12V Power Supply
Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz Quad-Core Processor
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus 76.8 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler
ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard
G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
Western Digital Caviar Blue 750GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
Intel 320 Series 80GB 2.5" Solid State Disk
XFX Radeon HD 6950 2GB Video Card
Lite-On iHES208-08 Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

Some of this I got at good deals, some I paid the stupid tax on. Steam is installed and downloading a whole slew of stuff now.