A blog experiment by Brad Mills.


Holy frijoles

A late lunch today found me at Taco Bell on Patrick Street at its hour of peak activity. There was only one cashier working, which means whoever made the schedule somehow forgot about this busy stretch of time, or somebody called in sick leaving the other employees in a lurch. When you're running a cash register — and I know this from experience — a good rule of thumb is to keep the herd moving along the best you can. And despite flying solo, the cashier here was doing a smashingly efficient job at that.

So my turn came up, I placed my order, funds were exchanged. At the conclusion of our transaction, the cashier said to me: "Have a blessed day." Um... ok.

I've been trying to figure that phrase out. Was this a request she was making of me, like it's something I have complete control over? I mean, if I wanted to, is it really that simple — just make it happen? And if that's not the case, what exactly was she getting at?

Is it safe for me to conclude she intended this in a religious context? Was there some mysterious force at work at Taco Bell today, maybe a miracle of tortillas and carne asada going on in the back — maybe water being turned into carbonated beverages by processes I could never fathom?

I didn't really pay attention before, but I probably should have afterwards, to see if everyone else was met with this same request. Perhaps it was just me, the scruffy-looking guy in the Hawaiian shirt, who looked like he needed some kind of blessing bestowed upon him, even of the self-induced variety. I will add for the record that some of the other patrons were much scruffier in appearance than I and probably genuinely could have used it.

And how does one respond to that? I'm not a religious person. This person — without qualms — can essentially profess to me a faith and system of belief which doesn't interest me at all. In fact, I have nothing to offer there which doesn't offend. And it's generally not a good idea to offend someone taking your order at Taco Bell.

There is a subtle injustice here, as those without belief are often looked upon with a certain disdain by those who subscribe to religion. In fact, in many cases, those who merely believe differently are looked upon in the same way. It's always been my understanding that religion taught tolerance and respect. I don't think the cashier at Taco Bell was disrespectful to me, but I think if I'd told her I didn't believe in that kind of thing, I probably would have gotten an earful. That seems unfair, and I think completely misses the point religion is supposed to provide.

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Weirdness at IHOP

This entry has been purged.

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Why I use Linux

I promise to not make this into a blog of geeky computer stuff. But I do want to get this one thing off my chest.

Those who've known me over the last few years know I'm a pretty big fan of Linux. This is a pretty recent occurrence — I'd played with Red Hat a bit in the late 1990s, but I didn't seriously start looking at Linux until two years ago. With Windows Vista looking like a flop and Microsoft shoving everyone down the upgrade path by dropping support for XP, I felt an urgency to explore alternatives. Two years and at least three Windows-based viruses later, and every computer in our house is now running some version of Linux. So a large part of it was born of my reluctance to let Microsoft push me around and bully me into the OS of their choosing. Some of it is because I was just tired of dealing with viruses and malware.

Another large part is Windows Genuine Advantage. Basically, Microsoft is trying to prevent theft of their product — I realize that. However, harassing people with reminders to activate, register, and all that nonsense is a strange and somewhat unprofessional way for a multi-billion dollar company to act toward its customers. Here's the thing: WGA sends information about your computer's hardware back to Microsoft as part of the validation process. Well, maybe I don't think this is any of Microsoft's business.

But systems without WGA aren't allowed to properly use Windows Update or the Microsoft Download Center, and at one time, downloading Internet Explorer 7 required WGA (though this isn't the case any longer). You know, browser and system updates are pretty damned important. People spend a lot of time on the Internet and conduct secure business there. So you have a choice — compromise your privacy by sending your information to Microsoft, or compromise it by using an outdated browser which is no longer supported. Yes, Firefox is available, but that's not the point — the point is feeling free to do what you want without sacrificing your privacy.

And to beat it all, you're paying Microsoft for the privilege. Not only does Linux not cost one red cent, you can get the source code for it and rewrite parts of it to act the way you want it to. The same can be said for the thousands of software packages which run on Linux. Freedom has multiple meanings here — cost is but one of them.

So. Pay a fat corporation for viruses, malware, unsecure products, violations of privacy, and lack of choice, or just get your computing done, keep your information to yourself, have a system which never gets a virus, and do it while keeping your money where it belongs — in your pocket.

That's why I use Linux.

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Hello world

This is a test. Is there anyone out there?

I thought I'd write a blog engine — first, to see if I could do it, and second, to resurrect an old domain which has lain dormant for the last few years. And, who knows... it might be fun.

My name is Brad Mills. I have been doing various web stuff for the last six years and have worked with technology since about 1981. My roles have run the gamut across hardware, software, and the users of both. I'm currently the webmaster for a company in Charleston, WV which has almost a quarter million customers.

I've also dabbled a bit in the creative arts, particularly writing. And, over the years, I've watched — with a good deal of skepticism — these two realms slowly merge on the Internet in the form of blogs. While you'd think this would be a natural fit for me, said skepticism and a few false starts have kept me at bay. Until now.

So I'm going to give this a shot with software I've written, and out in the open for the world to see and discuss. I really don't know where it will all end up. Like so many things in life, I rarely ever do.

But in the meantime, let's enjoy the journey. Thanks for reading.

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