Sunday, June 25, 2006

We live in very strange times. . .

I read this today… and I find myself thinking more and more about it.

You can see a 'G' rated pic here:

What is it with our society?

A teacher can spout anti-government rhetoric, or take and promote a “kill ‘em all” line with respect to the war on terror, and there’d be no ‘outcry’, no out right ‘dismissal’ and a call for a revocation of his/her teaching certificate.

Show a nipple however, and well…. You can’t be teaching art to students in Austin...

What is it anyway about the female nipple that makes it such a ‘forbidden’ item? I watch the Discovery Health channel from time to time and I’m always amazed that while they can show a flaccid penis, they always ‘blur out’ a woman’s nipple. They’ll show the rest of the breast… and just blur out the nipple.

Is there some sort of secret, uncontrollable ‘urge’ that drives, other men, but not me, insane with lust at the sight of a nipple? Did I miss some instant nipple arousal genetic trigger in my DNA?

While I’ll admit I’m as big a fan of the female body as anyone, I’m not instantly aroused to the point of distraction at the sight of a naked female, unless it happens to be my wife… and she’s ‘nekked’ as opposed to ‘naked’ (Nekked for those of you who don’t know, is naked, with “intent”)

At what point does the nipple cross the line from its utilitarian function of nurturing an infant, to being something that MUST remain hidden at all times lest it unleash a torrent of unmanageable arousal in all who see it?

I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that there are just as many women who like to see a bare male chest, as there are men who like to see a female one. Somehow though our society has deemed that women are far more ‘in control’ of their hormonal ‘urges’ than we men are, regardless of age. I think I’m more than a little offended by that assumption.

I think also that this has far deeper reaching aspects than just this one teacher, and these pictures. Could an employer of mine find my blog (it certainly wouldn’t be difficult) and decide that, this post for example, violates some ‘decency’ clause in the employee handbook, or a contract? Could I be blacklisted as a contractor, potential employee, or dismissed from the job?

It’s possible, and while I could probably win a wrongful termination suit… it would, no doubt, be an expensive legal battle, and once won would certainly narrow my chances for future employment.

Most of you who stop in here are also bloggers, your lives are out here, a diary for all to see, have you ever posted anything that could be viewed the wrong way?

So what do you think? Is the simple depiction of a woman, without clothes, or semi-clad, pornography? Or is it, as she claims, art?

I’ve not seen the actual pictures in question, but as I understand it, these were candid shots of her doing everyday things, like laundry, changing her clothes, etc. They did not depict any sexual acts, either alone or with others.

You, my readers, are a pretty level headed bunch so I’m asking you, does this strike you as an overreaction, or is management doing the right thing here?


I’ve scanned a dozen or so ‘Before’ outside photos of the house and I’ll have them posted today at . As always, you’re welcome to drop in there and take a look.

I may have to turn off the public viewing in the next day or so as the pics begin to hit the google image search, I don’t need the additional traffic! Once again, I offer you regular readers the opportunity to register for the site, it’s free and you’ll never receive any spam I promise. If you’re concerned about divulging personal information, just place gibberish in those fields, we’re just gathering it for family mailings etc anyway.

As always, thanks for stopping in.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Well… it’s certainly been a week!

One of ups, downs and turn-arounds…

Work-wise… things went pretty well. I managed to get everything out that had to go out, despite a server crash that disabled my access to the data. Only a (clever, if I do say so myself) workaround got me access and allowed me to hit the deadlines.

I got the ASP application working and the financial group signed off on the results (it’s always good when the financial people need your help!) I’ll document the changes, and hand everything off to the Business objects folks early next week.

Professionally I had a second interview with the folks in Connecticut, this time with the Development Manager. It turns out she lives in Atlanta and works 100% remotely managing the various developers. She indicated that, should I get the job, a remote assignment was possible.

In the course of the interview she also indicated that she (and the company) were looking to me specifically become a ‘big picture’ person in their move to a multi-tiered approach to data management and a tightly integrated mixed architecture.

Once she said that our discussion took on a whole new dimension… remote work… help with architecting the transition, proof of concept models… now they have my interest! This is the sort of thing that really gets my juices flowing creatively. Now all that has to happen is for the dream, to become a reality!!

I’d love to be a part of something this big, this state of the art and with a company that’s not only a leader in its field, but one with virtually no competition… sweet.

I’m trying to keep my hopes realistic as I’m not sure moving to Connecticut is a long term solution for us, I’d miss the weather here too much! Time will tell I guess, and I’ll make a decision when there’s one to make… for the moment I’m just enjoying being ‘in the hunt’.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Camaro pictures; there are some others various pics out there as well, with more to follow soon. In fact tonight and tomorrow with whatever time I have I’ll be scanning the photo album of our remodel of the house a few years back. I’ll most likely post them in sections, like before, during, after and current… the place is very much still a work in progress.

Micah is still talking about coming up on Sunday, but, considering he’s got a late day wedding to be in on Saturday, and remembering how I was at his age, I’m not counting on it!

As I was typing this yesterday, we had one of those signature North Carolina summer thunderstorms, incredible lightning, heavy rain and high winds… it knocked out power for a little bit and cable/internet access for several hours.

As a result I’m just starting to work on the scans, it’ll be Sunday before they’re posted for sure.

Also, Micah called last night, and as expected the heavy rains (5” + in many areas) the company he works for, and therefore he, will be very busy this weekend doing water removal.

I’m off to do some yard work, trimming mostly as I managed to get the yard mowing done before the storm actually got here yesterday.

So what are you doing this weekend?

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I know I'm late. . .

I promised you the Camaro pics yesterday and I didn't post them.

I tried, honest! Blogger just wouldn't allow me to upload any pics at all!!

So, now, for a limited time only you can go to my family website and click on Family Photos, go to the album named Bill & Maryan and then click on the album 'Camaro Rebuild'.

I say for a limited time because normally you'd have to be a registered member to view the photos. Feel free to register if you'd like, you're more than welcome as you all feel like family to me. I thought you might not be comfortable giving me personal information so I made the album 'public' for the time being.

I hope you enjoy them, I had almost as much fun scanning them as I did doing the project!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Things do change it seems. . .

Micah did come by on Father’s Day, and took me to a late lunch, early dinner. We had a really nice time, talking like we used to, about any and everything, from how work is going for each of us to cars, trucks and bikes… relationships and so on…

He and I always had a sort of easy communications style. Nothing was ‘out of bounds’ and we’d often talk for hours at a time. Yesterday served to remind me of those days, and how sad I was when he let me down.

I have this one ‘thing’ that’s really important to me and I’d stressed it to him many, many times… and that’s “Don’t make promises to me, that you can’t keep”

I don’t know when, or why really, that it started being so important to me, but it really is the one thing that will light my fuse like nothing else.

When he took off, and in the process neglected to make good on several promises to me, I worked up a righteous ‘ticked-off’… and then set about attempting to convince myself that I was angry, not hurt.

I mentioned in the last post, that despite what I’d tried to tell myself, in the end, I was just flat hurt.

We talked some about that as well… I let him know why I’d gotten so upset, and that, in retrospect; once again, I saw some of ‘me’ in his actions. Not something that was easy to talk about (for me) or to listen to (for him), but just like old times we managed to get through it… and came out the other side better for it. (or at least I think so)

One thing that came out was that he really does want to get square with me (us, his Mom and I) financially, and in the process also get back involved helping me with the truck project. I’d love to have his help, as I love teaching him things and we always have fun thrashing on things.

So, all in all… definitely the second best Father’s day ever, that first time he ever called me ‘Pop’ will be pretty hard to displace I think!

Work, has been a flurry of activity… I was asked to look into an ASP application that had been functioning fine for about a year, and suddenly this month was refusing to calculate the financial results for the period.

Once again, I’m tweaking and application that’s officially ‘not supported’, but serves a crucial purpose and causes a number of things to grind to a halt if it doesn’t function. The difference is, this time; the person who called on my expertise is one of the financial gurus in the company.

One of the things that struck me as I worked on this application was *why* we’d jumped on ASP.Net when it was released. In ASP, you had no ‘debug’ mode, it was a ‘through back’ to the days before integrated development environments and a total pain to work with. If there was one thing that launched Java, and JSP it was how poorly ASP was implemented in the first go around.

Even with all of that said, not only did I find, and fix the problem, in less time than it would have taken for them to find an ASP consultant, but I also fixed two other ‘core’ problems in that same section of code.

I love wins like that!!

The down side is that I have at least three other deliverables for Tuesday, and one of them I haven’t started on! I’ve got two PC’s though, and I can let one of them run the two processes I’ve got queued up, while I use the other to work up the third one… with any luck at all I’ll knock it all out!

Maryan continues to improve, slowly, but visibly everyday. She’s a bit frustrated that it’s taking time for her to ‘heal up’, but from what the Doc told me, she’s right on schedule, if not a little ahead of schedule.

It’s tough to see her still in pain, but encouraging to me that I can see her moving better than she has in over a year, and starting to sleep through the night without the pain waking her up… I may be crazy, but I’m holding out hope we’ll get at least one bike ride in together this year.

Tomorrow, I’m going to post some pictures of the IROC. It used to be mine, when I bought the Passat for work commuting I sold I to Micah. Shortly after he’d got it, he had an accident that crumpled up the front end.

Over one weekend we stripped off the front clip, cut out the damaged frame sections, welded in new ones, rebuilt the battery box, reassembled and aligned all the sheet metal and he was back on the road… I hope y’all enjoy the pics.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Put away the hurt….

That’s what I’m working on today.

I mentioned around Mother’s Day how one of my wife’s children had initiated a re-entry into our lives. It was a particularly emotional period as this kid (young man) had really hurt us both by his actions.

I find myself dealing with putting the hurt away today. He called last night, wanted to know if I was aware that today was Father’s day, and would it be alright if he came up to spend some time with me.

I’ve spent a lot of time, and energy, over the past couple of years (which is how long it’s been since we’ve heard from him) convincing myself that his Mom was the one he hurt, not me.

I should have spent more time and energy because I didn’t manage to convince myself. I did tell him it would be fine for him to come up though. First, because I definitely don’t want to get in the way of he and his Mom putting their relationship back together. Second, because I miss having him in my life too. Not necessarily in that order either.

He and I had a great discussion a week ago last Wednesday (the day after Maryan’s surgery) she asked us to leave her room so she could sleep and he and I sat outside the hospital and talked for over two hours… like we used to do.

We covered a lot of ground too… and unless he’s picking up acting as a second career, he really seems to have grown up a ton in the last couple of years.

One of the things about Micah is how much he’s always reminded me, of myself, at his age. In thinking about that, I remember joining the service to just get away from my parents and begin ‘making my own mark’ on the world. He went off and found himself a job/career and is doing pretty well… he’s recently been reviewing his life and found himself thinking about how selfish his actions were a couple years ago.

It seems he’s discovered that being a ‘man’ is more than just doing what you want to do, but involves finding ways to live your own life, and yet retain room in there for your family as well.

So today will mark the beginning of our reconciliation as well…. Or at least I hope it will. Micah and I sort of ‘adopted’ each other. He’s definitely the closest thing to a son I’ve ever had, and he’s told me that I’ve been a better Dad to him than his biological father… So, if this works out, and we actually put things back together, it will definitely be the best Father’s day I’ve ever had… Previously, it was the year he started calling me ‘Pop’…

I’ve missed that…

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

I don't know where the time... days... went

Strangers are stranger….

Well, the last week or so, felt like a month or so!!

First, and probably most importantly, Maryan came through her surgery just fine. In fact the Doctor’s words to me immediately following the surgery were “It could not have gone better”.

She’s recovering slowly, but on a very steady track. Although she’s still pretty uncomfortable, I believe she’s already in less actual pain than she was before the surgery. I could be wrong as she’s (understandably) a bit “guardedly optimistic” with respect to her pain levels. She’s definitely moving around like she’s in less pain, despite moving slowly, the limp she’d developed prior to surgery is gone, and has been since she started walking after the procedure!!

Thank you all for your well wishes, thoughts and prayers, they were very, very appreciated!!

I’ve been very busy with taking care of Maryan, keeping up the household, dishes, laundry, housecleaning, cooking meals, grocery shopping in addition to having an added work load on the job… there’s just not been any left-over time for blogging. I’ve missed you all and hope starting this week to get back on a more ‘normal’ schedule.

Now… on to some of the strange parts of the past few days….

Motorcycles… helmets…

What in the hell is the matter with “Big Ben”?

I heard on the news that, Ben Roethlisberger (the 24-year-old Steelers quarterback) was in serious but stable condition after a motorcycle wreck on Monday, and then later in the week that he’d been released.

It turns out he rarely, if ever wears a helmet. As I was watching the newscast, I found myself wondering what would compel someone, who wears a helmet “at work”, to not wear one when riding?

I suppose, under it all is some sort of misguided macho bullshit, where it’s ‘Ok’ and plenty masculine to wear a helmet on the field, but where just the opposite is true when riding his bike.

That thought got me thinking even more about why one would be ‘Ok’ and the other not so ‘Ok’…. Maybe it’s because the dangers of the ‘game’ are perceived as real and less controllable… going back to what I’ve said before about perception, and reality… it would make some sort of twisted sense I guess.

‘Big Ben’, fell victim to what is probably the single largest cause of Car/Motorcycle accidents (without alcohol involvement), and that would be where the car turns left, into the path of the approaching motorcycle. Had he been wearing a helmet, he would have spared himself a lot of pain and suffering.

According to the article I read:

“He broke his jaw and nose in the crash. Doctors said the multiple facial fractures were successfully repaired during more than 7.5 hours of surgery”

Seems like something *I* would want to avoid, but then again, it’s much, much more cool to ride without a helmet.

There are many, many reasons for motorcycle accidents, among them:

• Lack of basic riding skills
• Failure to appreciate the inherent operating characteristics
• Failure to appreciate the limitations of the motorcycle
• Failure to use special precautions while riding
• Failure to use defensive driving techniques
• Lack of specific braking and cornering skills
• Failure to follow speed limit

Of course, virtually all of these would be contributing factors in any accident involving a motor vehicle.

One thing is universally true however in motor vehicle accidents.

“The larger, heavier, vehicle usually wins”

If you’re going to ride a motorcycle, and you all know how much I love to ride, you absolutely must be aware of this fact of life.

You are usually the smaller, lighter vehicle. You have to ride defensively and you should always be ‘geared up’. No amount of ‘cool points’ will make up for a road rash that covers 40% of your body, or several skull fractures.

The whole point is to arrive alive, motorcycling, the more you know, the better it gets.

If you break this down logically, the helmet on the field would probably be less ‘important’ as everyone involved is a professional… there are very, very few professional drivers on the roads with us everyday. Things are a lot less ‘controllable’ out here, in the real world, than they are on the game field. On the field, there are many, many rules and a whole staff watching each play to be sure everything meets every rule… not quite the same out here…

Folks, control is an illusion… anyone who rides a bike and thinks they can control everything, is operating in an altered reality. You see, in the past month, one of the safest riders I know of, died, while riding back from a conference.

His bike and he had an incident, with a deer, and, he lost.

Larry Grodsky, who wrote a column, "Stayin' Safe," for Rider Magazine was the “father” of safe motorcycling as far as I’m concerned and wrote a number of articles every month on riding safely. If an accident (and a deer) can get him, it can get any of us.

I’ll miss Larry and his insight. I’ve learned as much about riding a motorcycle from reading his articles, as I have actually riding, or taking courses.

I’ve also been getting set up for a possible gig up in Connecticut. It seems there’s a shop there getting ready for a major forward thrust with an xBase/FoxPro initiative. I had my phone technical interview on Friday.

The interview was scheduled for 30 minutes, and it went on for over an hour. The recruiter seemed to think that was a very good sign, as always at the end of an interview, especially a technical one, I never have a clue what they thought.

I have no problem with the technical aspect of the interview, hey if I can’t ‘tech out’ after doing this for 20+ years I should find something else to do! It’s the application of the knowledge aspect that is the issue. There are probably at least a 100 ways to do anything, it’s knowing ‘how’ you might choose to approach a problem, and a solution, that is fairly subjective sometimes.

I have very strong opinions about the how and why, and I can tell in the interview that my feelings do not always agree with the company’s existing tech folks. Interestingly enough, that’s been a good thing, as often as it’s been a bad thing… so, like I said, I rarely have any idea how the interview went.

Time will tell I guess.

I’d like to be part of a forward push in the FoxPro arena… it’s been a long time since I’ve been heading into anything FoxPro related that wasn’t an ‘upgrade’ so simply straight up maintenance coding.

I’ve done a ton of interesting things (in FoxPro) on the current gig; unfortunately none of that development gets to be part of the actual production systems. It’s used to ‘front end’ things, but not to actually be a component of the day-to-day operations.

I’m actually on the fence about the Connecticut project as I have no real desire to move north again, however, if the money’s right and I can make it work so that I can be home say one week out of four or five, it might be just the ticket to replenish the reserves, and get things moving forward again.

A contractor friend of mine stopped by today ad we discussed a number of things, personal and business. It turns out he’s got a car project he wants some help on, and would like to swap some time and help on my project, which would be nice. Also, he thinks he can help me with some ‘grading’ I want to do, if I can be patient, and we can split some equipment rental costs after he’s done with the equipment on his work site.

That would be a very welcome deal! We’ll see what happens there as well.

All in all that’s about it, thankfully Maryan is continuing to recover, she’s a little better every day, and in less ‘discomfort’ every day too!

I’ll try to keep y’all posted as things progress!! I’ll be stopping by your blogs as soon as I can!!

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Well… Finally We have a Date…

For Maryan’s surgery that is… We met with the spine surgeon yesterday, Dr. Hey, and we’re on the schedule for Tuesday June 6th!! That’s right next Tuesday!

If I’m sounding a little excited, well I am. The waiting is finally over, and I believe this time we’ve got a surgeon that understands her situation, knows what needs to be done, and, has the knowledge and skills to do it!

You can read some about Dr. Hey here. He’s actually a pretty nice guy, which, considering many of the other medical folks we’ve met along the way, was a very nice surprise!

It’s been a very long 18 months for her. A lot of false hopes, and encounters with medical folks who had less than what I’d consider simple human kindness. Her original surgeon actually looked at her xRays and MRI and said (and this is an actual quote) “I don’t see anything orthopedic wrong with you”

Dr. Hey on the other hand, took one look and pointed out the same areas I’d pointed out to the last Dr and said you’ve definitely got a ‘pinch’ here and several smaller ones, here, here and here….

I learned a lot about what a ‘pinch’ looks like when I suffered two separate ruptured disks in the same year back in 2003. She had the same types of visible ‘stenosis’ that got me sent to a surgeon, yet this other ‘Dr’ was claiming there was nothing wrong.

The point in all of this is what a wonderful woman I’m married to. Never once did she ‘give up’… or accept that ‘it was all in her head’… that’s right, in her head… it was suggested she see a psychiatrist to see why she was imagining the pain.

I’ve lost a lot of faith in the medical profession over the past couple of years. I’ll never again take on face value what a physician tells me. I’ll research, get second opinions, and as long as what I’m being told doesn’t agree with what my body and brain are telling me, I’ll continue to fight for and find a proper course of treatment.

I’ve met a few, very compassionate and caring physicians too, it’s not that I think they’re all bad, it’s just the way some of these folks simply ‘dismiss’ what a patient is telling them… as if it’s not possible the patient could have a clue what’s going on.

One thing seems to distinguish, for me anyway, the ‘good ones’ from the ‘bad ones’ and I’m going to share that tidbit with you.

I sincerely hope you never find yourself in a similar situation, but if you do, one of the things you need to do is:
  • Put together a medical ‘notebook’
  • Keep all of your medical test results in it (ask for copies, you paid for them!)
  • List all the medications you’ve tried and may be on, how they worked or didn’t work.
  • Also keep all Xrays, MRIs all of it, together with your notebook, as well as anything else you feel is pertainent.
Take this with you whenever you go to see a new Doctor for the first time. If they dismiss, or otherwise disregard what you’ve brought them, leave and never go back. These types believe that only what ‘they’ do is relevant, they’re not going to help you much.

There will be Doctors though, that when you bring this with you, will actually got through it, page by page, ask you questions, get feed back from you as they read the materials and utilize it in their search for what’s wrong. These are the medical professionals who know enough to know, that they don’t know everything. That knowing what’s been ruled out, how tests have been interpreted, right or wrong, the effects of previous medications and so on could put them much closer, much faster to determining what might actually help you.

I credit Dr. Mark Phillips with helping us turn the corner. He’s also a great, very human, physician and practices in the pain management area of medicine. He’s on the board of directors for the “North Carolina Society of Interventional Pain Physicians” and extremely talented in his chosen field. While he doesn’t have an impressive web site (and I may have to change that for him) he’s a very impressive physician, and a truly compassionate human being.

He agreed with us, that for her to be in as much pain as she was in, there had to be an underlying cause. He’s known Dr. Hey for years, and they’ve worked together at different times in their careers. He made a call for us, and got us in to see Dr. Hey, for that alone I’ll always be grateful to him.

I finally feel like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel!!

Switching channels….

It’s raining here today, so my continuation of the brickwork project is on hold for at least another week So with that plan held up, my plan today, is to finish up the electrical repairs to the bike (remember the bike?), and do some general cleaning and organizing in the garage.

In addition, due to the Dr’s appointments and the surgery next week I need to see if I can get a little bit ahead on some of my projects at work so I don’t hold anyone else up. Fortunately, what I’m doing right now, business rules, field validation properties and designing the ‘packaging’ aspects of the new equipment database I can do without much interaction with others.

I’ll post some pics of the joys of motorcycle electronics and of a clean garage tomorrow, if time permits I might also ‘plumb’ some of the new steel air distribution lines I’ve been planning to install, with pics of course!

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Visual FoxPro Moves into 13th !!

See the actual chart here

Now 13th might not seem like a particularly ‘good’ thing to many folks. To those of us earning a living with Visual FoxPro (VFP) however, it’s a very big deal!!

If you look at the charts, a year ago, it was in 33rd place, five places behind Microsoft’s new baby VB.Net. Now, just one year later, not only did Vb.Net move up 11 places to number 17, but VFP caught, and passed it in the past year!!

I’ve said here many times that VFP is, hands down, the single most versatile and productive language I’ve ever written code in. Seeing it decline in popularity over the past decade has been, well, disappointing, to say the very least.

That I’m the sole VFP programmer working out of the contract house, and also the only one in an IT/IS focused company is a total reversal of my experience in contracting 15 years ago. Back then, the demand far outstripped the supply and I was getting paid to teach classes in FoxPro development by the contract house.

Today, I get brought in for a specific, targeted task in most cases, and both I and the headhunters know that when it’s over I’ll be looking for that little nugget of a contract elsewhere as they, in all likelihood, will not have anything for me.

News like I saw today however, gives me hope that the market, as well as the language are making a come back. Worse things could happen to those of use contracting (in VFP) for a living than to have demand spike!! There are few, maybe only 25-30% of the FoxPro coders left, the rest have move on to some other platform (probably Java) where the work is more plentiful, even if, the rates are a bit lower.

Why do I think it’s making a come back?

I’ve got a few ideas:

Many of the remaining VFP coders, like me, have started blogging.
  • .Net, and Visual Studio in general, have not made the inroads Microsoft was betting on in the developer community.
  • There are 100’s of thousands of solid, reliable FoxPro and VFP applications out there, and the cost to re-architect them is just too high, when compared to upgrading to VFP 9.0
  • VFP has ‘caught up’ to the object oriented world in some ways, and in others OO has come around to VFP.
  • Many OO developers and architects are still talking about ‘data driven’ applications. They just don’t actually know how to do it. It’s been done in VFP by me, and others, for years.
Also, by issuing two major version releases in about 18 months Microsoft gather up some industry steam… and folks are already talking about the next release… always a good thing!

Work-wise things are still busy, They’ve put enough on my plate to last well into the fall and gathering the business rules and designing the rules engine is a major component of a major project I’m on… the ‘old system’ had a 155 page ‘item specification’ manual and the details were not granular enough so virtually every component is being ‘refactored’ to identify its components as well…

The whole process reminds me of a system I did to build computers, and computer networks from inventory by selecting ‘kits’ or ‘packages’ of other inventory components at the time things were ordered… We also applied it, as I recall to building plantation shutters for a company in Florida, I modified the concept last to build a call accounting/payroll application…. I think I’m going to enjoy seeing where this information gathering process takes me!!

I can’t believe it’s Thursday already… the week has just flown by, and two days for the weekend will be over in a heartbeat!!

I hope this finds you all doing well!

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