Thank You Mr. Miller

(Originally posted on Facebook on 5/6/2014)

It’s ‘Thank a Teacher’ Day and I wanted to let Len Miller know how much I appreciate him and all he’s done for me and lots of others like me. He was my junior high math teacher, my chess coach, and he certainly started me on a path that helped shape the skills that I use today in my career.

Mr. Miller made math fun, and his classes were the building blocks that equipped me to take advanced math in high school (Thanks Mr. Tingle!) and gave me confidence.

More importantly, I think, are all of the experiences that I was able to be a part of while on the chess team…and the foundation of logic and critical thinking that resulted.

I was able to attend two national chess tournaments: one in junior high and one in high school, and countless others in and around the local (Tucson) area. I learned many things about chess, about teamwork, about friendship, about being underestimated by other teams because I was a girl, about enjoying the heck out of playing touch football with the boys between chess matches and devastated about not being allowed by the school to play on the junior high football team, about managing the clock while playing timed games, about studying chess openings and defending against the four-move checkmate and a never-ending endgame with only a king and a rook. I learned about Minneapolis and St. Louis even though my family didn’t have a lot of money to travel, and I saw the sights, made memories, and expanded my horizons during those trips to the nationals.

To make a long story short (too late!), chess and some early access to Apple computers in the classroom influenced me to be an early computer owner and internet user, which exposed me to massive multiplayer online gaming, which led to a job with an online gaming company as a community manager and game master, which introduced me to a computer scripting language,which gave me a little programming experience and some confidence to apply for a programming internship at a bank, which led to a full time application programming job, which eventually led to the job I have today.

So, Mr. Miller, thank you. You cared about us kids, gave us knowledge, opportunity, and encouraged us. And I know it must have taken a lot of your time, effort, and energy. I’m sure we were a handful and no doubt we took you for granted at the time. We did appreciate it. I appreciate it. I think about it often. What you did mattered, and I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to tell you. 


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To all the jobs I’ve loved, before

Tonight I was updating the “About Me” page on this site, listing the various jobs that I’ve had over the years, and was reciting the list to my surprised son who had never heard of most of them. It was an interesting trip down memory lane, because I haven’t thought about some of these jobs in a very long time. It made me proud of the variety of things I’ve been able to try out, and reminded me that each of these experiences helped make me the person I am today.

Yes, I drove a forklift at a pecan packing plant as a teenager. Yes, I drove the forklift right into a stack of boxes before I got the hang of it. That was a great summer job, especially since I basically created my own job opening. You see, my dad was the farm manager back then and had arranged for me to work on the conveyor belt picking branches and leaves out of the pecans that had been picked and were ready for processing.  I was supposed to see “Oscar” on my first day, and what I didn’t know (or didn’t hear my dad tell me) was that I needed to go behind the plant where the pecans were delivered, and that was where I would find my new boss.

So instead, I appeared in the plant office on my first day asking for Oscar, who was very puzzled because he had no idea what job I was talking about. Little did I know there were TWO OSCARS, and the one out back was expecting me (and probably wonders to this day why I never showed up) while the one inside the plant just must have figured “Oh, this is the boss’ daughter and I  had better find her something to do.” Thanks to Oscar, I learned to drive a forklift, got to pack pecans in boxes for distribution, and ended up with a more interesting job that summer than my dad had originally planned.


Dad's pecan farm - 2006
Dad's pecan farm - 2006

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Instead of thinking about writing someday…

I am going to just start. I have been online since the days of CompuServ, GEnie, and Prodigy (do you remember that horrible client you had to install??), and am finally going to spend some serious time developing my own blog. I’ve had a few family-type ones before, which hardly got updated, but never one  just for me to write, and share, and ponder.

Speaking of the early “online” days, I kind of miss them. I’m talking before the internet, when there were a bunch of bulletin boards that you could dial up with a modem, log on anonymously and poke around to see what was being offered. There was a lot of command-line navigation, and I don’t recall if I ever encountered any content that was very valuable, but it was fun searching for stuff. Then came CompuServ, with those crazy userIDs (something like 12345,4567). CompuServ had a lot of great forums, and I liked the navigation because it was fast, once you knew how to get around.

I tried Prodigy, because I had some free trial on a floppy disk, but the graphical user interface was very slow and clunky. I don’t think I kept an active account there for very long, but it was interesting to see how different the experience was from CompuServ.

Then, GEnie. I remember how excited I was to find online games available on their network. And totally thrilled when I learned that some of them were multiplayer games. When walking down the street and encountering someone else — it could be a non-player-character, or it could actually be someone else playing the same game in front of their computer! What a revelation! I was instantly hooked. These games were text-only, which may seem totally not fun, but they actually had some of the richest environments and best gameplay I’ve ever experienced. I’ll probably write about the games later, as I spent a lot of time and $$$ living in a certain massively multiplayer role-playing game.

Ok, I did have an AOL account at one time too, but I’ve always considered it an “online newbie” network that basically protected their users with a useless layer of fluff in front of the real internet. Remember when our mailboxes were full of AOL disks and people were upset at receiving this “postal spam” of disks and CDs. Aren’t you glad we don’t need a client to connect to the internet today?

I remember when the “interconnectedness” first started. I was very glad to hear that I would soon be able to send an email from GEnie to a user on CompuServ. Wow, what a concept! I should dig some of my old emails out of the hard-drive graveyard in my desk.

I’ll save Gopher and modem fun and King’s Quest III for another time. Hasta manana.

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