10th Anniversary Randomness

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Ask Leo!

What a long, strange, trip it’s been.

Made stranger by some of the questions I get. ūüôā

Here’s this year’s collection of the odd, the strange, the goofy … the “WTF?” questions I regularly get, exactly as they were asked – and the answers I’d love to give.

For what it’s worth, this year the “wierdness rate” has decreased – not sure why. There weren’t quite as many to choose from. Perhaps people are getting smarter. Perhaps overall traffic to Ask Leo! was down this year. However it does seem like this years smaller batch includes some who tried extra hard at being … odd.

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The Accident

Or, rather, the “Accident” … as it was actually quite intentional.

I recently stumbled upon the pictures associated with the event, and since this is one of our “life stories” that we tell folks about from time to time I decided to share here…

This all takes place on Friday the 13th of December, 1985.

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It’s the Thought that Counts

It's the thought that counts Over the last few weeks we’ve seen reports of another celebrity scandal where some high profile individual is losing their business, their connections and basically their reputation because of some words that they’ve used in the past.

As I’ve discussed before, we give bad words too much power. Heck, we give mildly offensive words too much power – by considering them “offensive” at all.

Honestly, it’s not the words that matter.

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Teach Your Children Well

(I posted this on Facebook the other day, but wanted to preserve it here as well…)

Sometimes I can’t not say something. I’m generally a very positive person, but sometimes various corners of humanity disgust me.

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Words like courage and leadership and inspiration are hard¬†to define and quantify, yet we know each when we see¬†examples around us. Sometimes it seems that as a culture¬†we perhaps use them a little too often and by doing so¬†devalue their use when they’re more truly appropriate.

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On Gratitude, and Worry

10 years ago this morning my mom died. This morning as I was meditating – sitting outside listening to the plethora of different birds that populate our area, feeling the light breeze on my face and the warmth of the morning sun – I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude. Gratitude for where … Read more

How it began … and ended

At the risk of assuming anyone actually cares, here’s a peek into:

How it all began…

From late 1979 to 1983 I was working for a small company in Seattle writing software for a Z-80 based data entry terminal, and eventually a CP/M based computer. The problem was that they were small….and getting smaller. They were 25 people when I joined, and around 6 at beginning of 1983.

There was an ad in the Seattle Times:

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Preparing for “the big one”

On Saturday (April 27) I participated in an exercise¬†with the local RACES arm of ESCA – the Emergency services¬†organization for which I volunteer my amateur radio¬†“skills”.

The point of this exercise was to simulate a major event that rendered our EOCs (Emergency Operations Centers) inaccessible, and to then pass message traffic from CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) teams that were simulating a damage assessment exercise back to our central EOC. For the Woodinville Crew that meant that we could not enter City Hall, where the local EOC with its radios, laptop and printer were located. Instead, we set up our improvised EOC on a picnic table outside.

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I have to do WHAT to replace the battery?

A friend gave me an older Kenwood TM-701A mobile unit that had been sitting around unused for many years. I’d been looking for a second unit to leave at home so I wouldn’ t need to swap out my Yaesu from the car as often, and it seemed like a perfect fit.

Worked great, except for one minor detail: as soon as you turn it off it forgot everything. Current settings, programmed channels, everything.

Well, that’s a pain.

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My Reading List

While on my sabbatical I did a lot of reading. Some targeted at the sabbatical proper, some leisure reading, and some that fell somewhere in between.

These are the two that when I described my sabbatical to some friends were the ones that I took the time to call out as having had special impact.

The Charge


The Charge probably came the closest to a structure that I could¬†identify with for my attempt at self discovery. Of particular value were his thought¬†exercises at the end of each chapter which I frequently¬†used as jumping off points for my own processes. Many¬†books present formulas – take these X steps and you’ll¬†find your answer. That’s not how I work, and I didn’t¬†follow Brendon’s formula either. Rather I cherry-pick from¬†whatever I’m reading that which resonates with me and take¬†it from there. The Charge probably had the most cherries.

The Artist’s Way

This came out of left field; “The Artist’s Way”
is a book specifically
aimed at getting blocked artists unblocked and doing their
art once again. Anyone who’s written any significant
amount of software will agree that there can be true
artistry involved – rare perhaps, but absolutely possible
– and it’s something that I’ve believed for a long time.
This book did two things for me: first, it allowed me, or
reminded me, to apply that artistry mindset to what I do
today, which in turn allows me to value it, and create it,
in a completely different light. Second is that it
introduced me to a couple of practices that I’m finding
surprisingly very valuable; the most valuable being what
the book calls “morning pages” – a daily writing exercise;
as I said writing is one of the best ways I have to work
through my thoughts. Much of the book actually doesn’t
apply – many of the problems it addresses are problems I
simply don’t have (for which I am grateful). However putting
myself in that artist’s mindset was by itself very
valuable. To build on the cherry-picking metaphor, The
Artist’s Way didn’t have as many cherries, but they were


Here’s a rundown of some of the rest of books I spent time with, in no particular order.

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What Language!

Oh My!
Some years ago I was chastised by a reader for using the word “sucks”, as in “networking sucks”. He took pains to point out that its origins were pornographic (I’d throw in beastiality as part of the origin depending on your corner of the world – at least in my highschool there was always a donkey involved), and that my use of it was vulgar, and even so far as to promote the decline of the language.

I can sort of see his point, but in reality when I write for Ask Leo! I write to be *accessible*. That means I try to write using familiar terms and in a conversational style that people can relate to, and of course understand.

Almost everyone relates to something sucking.

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A Big What and a Little Why become What I Do

As I’ve mentioned before I don’t have a specific “Big Why” that drives me. There’s no tangible goal I’m driven to accomplish with my life, no dream that I’m aware of that I’m heading towards.

Rather, I’ve identified what I’ve come to call my “Big What” – the characteristics of how I want to live, and what I enjoy doing. The other way to look at that is that I’ve got a pretty reasonable picture of what I want my journey to look like, without really having any particular destination in mind.

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Why Technology Excites Me

In my recent sabbatical/reboot I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it is I want to do, and why I want to do it.

What I enjoy doing is actually pretty simple: playing with technology. As I once put it long ago, I enjoy making personal computers and related technologies “dance”. That doesn’t mean I hop on to every new technology or latch on to every latest and greatest fad, but it does mean that I pay attention to most and am not hesitant to try something new when I think it’s interesting and when I think it’s “ready”.

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Base Race

Grade 7 Class Photo
St. Benedict’s Seattle, Grade 7 Class Photo circa 1969 (I’m in the middle row, 4th from right.)

Looking back I think it was in 7th grade that I got my first clear indication of what my future career might become.

We were being taught about number bases. Because we have 10 fingers our numbering system uses ten digits, 0 through 9. This is refered to as “base 10”. There are, naturally, other possible systems that can use pretty much any number of digits. Bases of less than 10 simply use only the digits needed, and bases of greater than 10 would add alphabetic characters in addition to the numeric digits 0-9. Base 16, for example, uses 0-9 and A-F to indicate the 16 possible digits in a number.

Base 2, or binary, is where it gets interesting; at least for me.

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On Dreams, Goals, the Big Why … and Serendipity

As part of my two month sabbatical this year I’ve been thinking a lot about where I’m headed. I’ve jokingly referred to this as figuring out what I want to be when I grow up, because in many ways I’m so very fortunate to have such a large palette of possibilities to choose from. It’s basically involved a fair amount of reading and a lot of thought and introspection. It’s also involving a fair amount of writing, some of which I’ll be capturing here.

The reading has been varied, and I’ll save the reading list for another day, but at around the end of the first month I had a realization that helped get me unstuck.

That realization?

I don’t have a dream.

And that’s OK.

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Toyota Sequoia Radio Installation

I drive a 2010 Toyota Sequoia that we got for towing our 26′ travel trailer. Not long after I got my ham license I decided that the thing to do was to put a mobile radio in it. I did a fair amount of research beforehand, and what follows is what I ended up doing.

I’ll start where most things start, under the hood at the battery:

Power I got a spool of 10-gauge wire and began at the battery with screw-on connectors that lead to a pair of 50A fuses. I’d call them the fuses of last resort, since there’s more fusing downstream, so hopefully these will never blow. The wire goes first to an Anderson Power Pole connector for quick disconnect of everthing, should that ever be needed.

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How fast is Netflix? No, not streaming, I mean the DVD service.

A recent post on the (wonderful) “What If?” website entitled FedEx Bandwidth got me to thinking about a calculation I did some time ago, that for the life of me I can’t find, so I’ll have to re-generate. What’s the equivalent download bandwidth of a Netflix DVD subscription? You know, the option Netflix actually started … Read more

All My Base

I started in ham radio with a Wouxun HT (Handie-Talkie or handheld radio). It’s funny, because a) it seems like everyone starts with an HT of some sort, especially lately since there are several comparatively inexpensive models available, and b) so many of the more experienced hams say you shouldn’t start with an HT.

Antenna Oh well.

I moved on, of course, to adding a Yaesu FR-8900R to my car (I should write up the install into my Sequoia), and most recently set things up to run that as a base station here at home. “Set things up” doesn’t quite cover the work involved, however.

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Borrowed Property

That soldering iron doesn’t really belong to me. Back in “the day” (1983, to be exact), when I joined Microsoft it was truly a small company. 360 people small. It was also not networked. Instead, each office was connected to shared servers by one or more RS-232 serial port connections – think dialup modem technology, … Read more

Helen’s Journey

Helen was a special dog, in more ways than most people imagine. Not long after birth in 1999 Helen was diagnosed as completely blind. As she grew that evaluation turned out not to be 100% accurate as her vision appeared to improve as she got a little older. In fact, as an adult most people … Read more