A Scout is Brave

I’m not afraid to stand for what I believe in, and I wholeheartedly believe that the BSA’s recent announcement that they’ll not be changing their policy of excluding gay scouts and scout leaders makes me sick to my stomach.

My “Little Grandma” and I at my Eagle Ceremony reception
Let me start this off by giving some background information: I’m an Eagle Scout of BSA Troop 1541 out of Silverdale, WA. I earned that rank on September 13th, 1995 and at the time was a part of an Explorer troop as well, and a part of the Order of the Arrow. I was proud of what I had accomplished, I was proud that I had completed all the requirements to get something I knew be able to stand tall about for the rest of my life.

Yes, that dorky individual to the left of your screen is me, proudly standing next to my Grandmother Elsie who was able to attend my Eagle ceremony. You see, it’s not just something that scouts themselves are proud of, but rather something that your entire family becomes a part of. Scouting builds bonds with your family and friends in ways I never even thought I’d imagine when I started the process some 10 years earlier. It gives us skills and abilities to understand who we truly are, what we’re capable of, and through that understanding mold ourselves into confident individuals who can communicate with our family, friends, and colleagues in ways we might not otherwise be able to.

I wish I could go to the current generation of youth in the USA and recommend that they join the BSA, but I can’t. Moreover, it’s my duty to the scouting code that prohibits me from doing so. I must stay true and honest to those principles that I hold so dear, if I am to allow myself to still stand tall as a member of the Eagle Scouts. The scout law is as follows for those who don’t know it:

A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent

Allow me to touch on a couple of these that have special meaning to me:

A Scout is Trustworthy

We are a sum of our experiences and our actions, and if I am to stay truthful in my actions, I must therefore stand tall in saying I have no issue with anyone’s choice in sexual orientation. I’ve known people across the entire spectrum and called many of them friend. Just as race is a taboo standard by which to judge an individual now, so too is sexual orientation, it just hasn’t had the generational gap to make it an ingrained practice.

A Scout is Loyal, A Scout is Helpful

We each hold within us a set of principles, of guidelines that help us define right from wrong. I am loyal to those principles, because those principles were indoctrinated into me in my youth, by both scouting and my surroundings. But they teach me to be accepting of others choices, they teach me to do my “good deed daily” and help others. And that help must come without discrimination.

Do a good deed daily.” Every scout has heard this, and almost every scout I know tries to live by it to the best of their ability. Whether it is by holding the door open for someone, or pulling off the side of the road to help push someones car out of a busy intersection on your way to your Boy Scout meeting (This happened to me twice, go figure). We don’t need credit for our actions, we don’t seek medals or accolades, we just want to help our fellow human regardless of who they are.

Dressed for the occasion, and proud of what I had done.

A Scout is Friendly, A Scout is Courteous, A Scout is Kind

How is discrimination ever friendly, ever courteous, ever kind? How are we to be proud of being a part of an organization that violates its own law? As I was preparing this post, I hit this part and it just made me sit back and think about how truly unjust, cruel, and mean this recent announcement is. It has affected me so much that I’ve considered not even putting on my résumé that I am an Eagle Scout, for lack of wanting to be associated with an organization that would make such a stance in this day and age. We need to be better than this, and we need to say so proudly.

A Scout is Brave

I chose this one as the title for this post with a very good reason. It is our duty as Eagles, as Scouts, to stand up and be brave now. We are a very powerful voice, and we must not allow ourselves to be silenced by anything. If that bravery comes in the form of a signature to Jennifer Tyrrell’s change.org petition, in your own online posting, in the sharing of this one if you agree with my statements, or in the direct contact of you to your local BSA council showing your stance on it, we need this change. I want to be proud that I’m an Eagle Scout, I want to encourage the next generation to follow in our footsteps because I know how it will help their lives, but as it stands now, I simply can’t.

Rebuilding my chops

My brother in-law put it best:

If the code you wrote a year ago doesn’t contain something that makes you cringe a little, your chops have gone stagnant.

I’ve been out of the game for a bit, and of late I’ve been working on rebuilding my chops. I’ve got a couple of projects on the horizon, catching me up with a couple of standards that I feel I really need to learn or brush up on. These include (but are certainly not limited to): Ruby on Rails, CoffeeScript (Hell, my JavaScript in general is rusty), and Node.js. As a result, I sat down the other night and outlined a couple of projects that I’m going to be developing for the express purpose of strengthening my tool set. Best part is, they’re applications I believe will actually be of benefit to at least our household, and hopefully yours as well. More on that later though.

What spurred this on? Well, I was cleaning up my file server, and I found some code I thought I had lost in a HDD crash (specifically the guest book script I wrote going on 9 years ago). After a nostalgic walk down memory lane, at least I can fully admit that the code by today’s standards is in need of dire repair. So maybe my chops aren’t completely stagnant, just in need of a good workout. So I came up with a couple of projects to give them a workout, and set forth in my task. So far? Things are going well, and I expect the pace to increase as I get more and more “loosened up.” Either way, it’s going to be enjoyable for me, and who knows you may get something out of it as well. Oh yes, I’m definitely going to be posting some “pre-release teasers” here when I hit my milestone checks I’ve hit. I want, nay need, people to be brutal about functionality, it’ll help me rebuild the skill set to the point where I’ll be satisfied. At least then I won’t feel behind the curve, and it’ll stabilize the platform on which I’m standing going forward. (Truth be told, if you ever stop learning, you’ve died.)

Anyway, just a brief check-in. More coming soon™.

Five Ws

Who is this blog about?

This blog, simply put, is about Jamie Harrell. One person exploring everything happening around him, sharing that information, asking those questions, and hoping one day to have an answer or two.

What is happening?

My life. I’ve never led all that amazing of a life in my own eyes, and on more than one occasion in my youth I exaggerated this to an extent that I caused more harm than good. This is my chance to fix it, to make right the wrongs of my past, and to share with people the journey of what I find to be a wonderful adventure.

When did it take place?

To steal a line from one of my favourite movies:

Now.” You’re looking at “now”, sir. Everything that happens now is happening “now”.

I’ve dwelled on the past an awful lot in my time, and I think there’s been quite enough of that already. So we’re going to live in the now.

Where did it take place?

Wherever I am! Most presently? That’d be Halifax, Nova Scotia. Could that change? Of course, or it could not, who knows, but wherever it is and wherever it is from, that’s where I’ll be, and that is where this will be coming from.

Why did it happen?

Over time I’ve been very active with this blog, or I’ve completely bloody forgotten about it. There’s been no rhyme or reason, there has only ever been one truth about it. Every time I’ve not done it, I’ve regretted it. Each hole represents a missing piece of my story, a story that I want to share. It’s not about gaining a huge readership, truth be told I do this for myself, and that is why I’m setting down my goal today. June 1, 2012 will be the start of me taking the time, making sure I write down the log, and keeping track of what I’m doing and where I’m doing them. I want to answer these five Ws of my life each and every step, to make sense of what is going on around me, and to be able to look back in time and remember things that might otherwise have been forgotten.

I know, there is nothing new here, I’ve said all this before, and you’ll likely go on your merry way thinking nothing will change. But it will change, it will change because I want it to change, and that is what matters here. Not the opinion of anyone who’s ever told me that something I’m working on isn’t worth their investment. This is me, investing in myself. So I’ll see you soon.

Making technology work for you

If you’ve ever known me, you know I love technology. I love what it can do, I love where it is going, and most importantly I know what it can do for me. Yes, I am completely aware that technology in all of its forms has caused the human race to spend less time with family, less time on truly social aspects of life, and more time working. That much is a fact, compare us to hunter gatherer societies, and they spend an inordinately large amount more time with their family socializing. But I still love my technology, and this is the world I live in. It’s there to make some things easier, and it is in that part that I’d like to talk on today.

Since moving to Halifax, I’ve had a remarkable amount of time at my disposal and I’ve attempted to make our lives better as a result of it. My favourite addition of late has to be the music server. I’ve always loved music and being able to stream it to any device in the entire house, via either cable or WiFi, just makes me smile. I can even access it across the internet and stream music anywhere I can get WiFi (or even cell coverage, though the data rates would make me shudder). So now we can have 1 organized collection, and securely access it anywhere we travel. Yes I’m aware you can do this with Google Music (and I sync there too), but it’s not available here in Canada, and I’m not sure how long my account will work, so having a backup is awesome. Plus I don’t have to upload it, it just works. If you’d like to setup something similar, check out Subsonic. You’ll thank me later.

Streaming music Server
Our Streaming Music Server

All setting something like this up takes is a bit of reading, and while we’re on that subject, I’d like to introduce you to my new favourite tool Readability. Takes any page I want to read later, saves it in my account, and strips off all the “chrome” of the page. I get the raw text, and it syncs across all my devices so while I’m riding the bus I can catch up on those articles. It even has an option to sync it to your Kindle, though I don’t have one to try out how well it does it, but given the rest of the app? Most likely very well indeed.

Saved items to read later!

But what really brings all of this wonderful technology together for me is the ability to automate things. Let me give you an example: I’m on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. I have friends who are exclusively on one but not the other, so when I want to share something, I share it multiple spots depending on the target audience. Sometimes though? I’d just like things to go everywhere when I post on one of them. With ifttt you can do this with ease. (Okay, disclaimer, they don’t have a Google+ module YET, but it’s in the works, and that was just an easy to understand example) I can setup a rule that when I post a link in twitter, it becomes a link post in my Facebook. When I upload a picture to Facebook, or Instagram, or Flickr, or a video to Vimeo or YouTube? They’re automatically backed up to my Dropbox account. And this is just scratching the surface of the tool. In fact, according to the sites homepage when I’m logged in, with the 19 channels I’ve activated (of which there are plenty more), I can create 1105 possible tasks.

ifttt - Tasks
If This Then That

Why am I randomly writing about this? Because of late it’s had my mind running with ideas of things to build which automate tasks in our lives. I’m developing ideas and these things give me inspiration that technology needs to be simple, powerful, and give us what we need without the extra crap that makes us want to pull our eyes out of their sockets. Do you have any favourite tools? Something you use to automate a part of your life? Or even an idea of something you’d like to see built to make your life easier? Share yours in the comments please, I’d truly love to hear them.

So many things the same

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, we hardly even blinked at the concept of traveling up to Canada for a day. Every year in High School we’d make a trip up there to march in the Victoria Day parade, and there were more than a few Saturday trips up there as well. I didn’t even live in a “border town”, it was a couple of hour venture up, but still close enough that you didn’t really even think it was a big deal. Heck, we got Canadian programming on PBS.

I mention this because when I moved up here, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never been a fan of the East Coast of the United States, and my biggest fear by a long shot was that I’d find the even more Eastern Coast of Canada to be the same. But from the quiet area that is the Pacific Northwest, I can say that Nova Scotia (specifically Halifax) is very similar in an uncanny number of ways. The people here are laid back, relaxed, enjoy life simply, and thirst for the latest advancements of the modern age with the same eager that I found in the Northwest. They love some good food paired with good beer, and even have a Beerfest that I’m elated to attend this year. In fact, the area is so much into their food that there is a Food Survey that locals take part in which rates the top of a variety of categories. Best part is? This is highly coveted! It can make or break a business, and businesses go all out showing their support for it. On the rare occasion we order some takeout, there’s always mention of “Vote for us on the Coast”, its big business, and it keeps the quality very high.

Riding the bus
Ok, so it’s a shot of the back of people’s heads…

Geographically speaking, it’s very similar as well. Like the Puget Sound area of my familiar, there is water everywhere, and after living the last 14 years in what is considered “High Desert”, I finally feel at home again. It’s easier to breathe, it rains like my beloved Seattle, and the wind here is something to experience. It may seem like I’m going on about apparently trivial things yet there is nothing further from the truth. What makes a place feel home is how well you fit in with it, and all of these little things allow me to fit in here very well indeed.

And yet, there are some significant differences that need to be mentioned in order to preserve my sanity. First and foremost is the bagged milk. Yes, you heard me right, bagged milk. I was completely unprepared for this concept and it’s still very strange to me that, instead of heading to the grocery to pick up your gallon jug as you do in the states, I now buy 4 litres of milk in a larger bag which has 4 1-litre bags. I know, they’re almost the same quantity, but it’s still just foreign from a country that I have never viewed as such. Especially when I was informed that there are 2 tools one must have in order to handle these… Oh yes you can’t just use a knife on the bag, no they have a special Milk Bag Cutter device so that you snip the corner, and it can stand in your Milk Bag Jug. I completely appreciate the reasoning behind this container methodology however, as it produces far less waste and is supremely greener for the environment.

Bagged Milk
This will, without question, take me the longest to adjust to

Okay, enough with the milk.

Cellphones are another thing that I’ve found bizarre. In the States, I was able to completely cut the cord and use exclusively my cellphone as there were many advantages of doing so. You had nationwide long distance, voice mail, no roaming, a reasonable amount of minutes, and all in a rather affordable package. In Canada? Not so much. Take for example a package from Rogers (Yes, I know, you are either on team Rogers, or you are not. But they’re very popular, so bare with me):

Price: ~$53+tax
Minutes: 300
Data: 500mb
Features (Choose 1): Unlimited Messaging, Unlimited My5, Double Your Minutes

Ok, so that’s not terrible right? Problem: If you travel at all our of your local area? Yup, roaming. If I want to call my in-laws on Prince Edward Island, or brother-in-law in Ontario? Long distance. If I want voicemail? Pay extra. This holds true across all but one of the companies I’ve researched while being up here. Canada’s cellphone plans feel like what we were purchasing in the States back in the 90s with the addition of a small bit of data that your smartphone needs to operate. It is not even remotely an option to replace your home phone with a cell, and that’s just a bit more than sad. At least I’ve found a company that’s attempting to change that, and as soon as my permanent residence status is approved here, I’ll be signing up with Koodo. They’re offering the no roaming charges, free voicemail, and Canada wide long distance at least! (Yes, I’m plugging them, because they’re worth it Canada… they are worth it.)

Anyway, this has become longer than I was expecting, and I got side tracked a time or two, but the point is this: I love the warm feeling of similarity the area is providing me, and I’m learning to appreciate some of the differences. Now if I could just adjust my internal clock by 4 hours.