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J. Daniel Ashton

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Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, —Ecclesiastes 9:10a NIV
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands:
"See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God." —Micah 6:8, CEV
With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment.
Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. —Proverbs 3:5,6 CEV

see also — My Homepage

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Name: Daniel Ashton
Location: Germantown, Maryland, United States

Any links with a dashed underscore probably point to Amazon.com

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Frightening Comparisons

In this article the author highlights many very frightening comparisons between the actions of President George "Dubya" Bush and the leadership of Nazi Germany. It is astonishing how many similarities may be found, even to the creation of a national police force. (Did you know that the Secret Service has been augmented in this way? I had missed that bit of news.)

The author's original intent was to discourage the confirmation of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court. It may be too late for that, but all citizens must keep their eyes wide (and warily) open as our executive branch thunders toward the disturbingly distant end of its term in office.

What Goes Around, Goes Around Some More

Last weekend was fantastic! In fact, I have another Blogger window open already, just waiting to tell you what a wonderful, uplifting, fulfilling, exciting, exhausting weekend it was. But first I get to tell you the disappointing bits here in this post. Don't worry: it's not all bad.

First, I drove the CRX to church Sabbath morning. When I got there, the hand-brake ratchet refused to engage. The hand-brake would work, but only as long as you sat there and held it. Fortunately, I was able to park in a spot with a slight down-hill tilt and a curb to roll against. In the afternoon I parked out on Gunner's Branch to leave one more spot open for our guests (we had 33 guests in the house at lunch time, plus the four of us), and I had to toe the wheels into the curb for safety.

Yesterday (Monday) I took the car to the local Honda dealership to have it looked at, and the polite service clerk told me it would cost nearly a hundred bucks just to give me an estimate for the repairs. (!!) I asked about buying parts, and she directed me to the parts counter, where another polite clerk informed me that the assembly I believed to be faulty came as a unit, again at a cost close to a hundred bucks. I was suddenly very unhappy with Honda. What I diagnosed as a broken spring or a missing bolt was going to cost me some serious money.

I decided to take it to a local Exxon with a garage, and here's one of the good parts: As I drove, I started playing with the hand brake, and whatever had been stuck before suddenly resumed being fully functional. Prayers of thanksgiving shot heavenward! I'm very grateful that, whatever the problem may have been, I didn't have to pay a lot to be told that nothing was actually wrong.

Vicki and I ran enough errands yesterday, and our 24-minute power nap turned into an hour and three-quarters, so that I wound up working later than nine last night. As I was getting close to finishing my eight hours for the day, my laptop screen started blinking off. I found that by tweaking the case in just the right way, putting pressure on one corner or another, I could get the screen to come back. But as my eight hours came to an end, the image on the screen turned into a solid white square, instead of windows and icons. (First silver lining: the system lasted long enough to finish the work day, pretty much to the minute.) This morning I tried to get into the system using VNC and an external monitor, but neither approach bore much fruit. I had a large number of e-mail windows open indicating messages I needed to read and reply to. If you hoped to get a reply from me over this weekend, I crave your forgiveness. Please write to me again! Long story short(er): I drove to an IBM office near Fairfax, VA, this morning, to get a loaner replacement while my laptop goes in for repairs. Second silver lining: the repair guys offered to just swap laptops with me, so I now have a new chassis, keyboard and screen, and I'm back in business once again.

Finally (I hope!): there had been word at work for the last two weeks that our project was to expect some modest trimming. As you might expect by now, because I do not have certain necessary qualifications, my name floated high enough on the "unnecessary" list that I have been selected for trimming. But there's a silver lining here too: the project will continue to keep me busy for more than a month, so I won't hit the bench until early March. If I can land a new position (in IBM or elsewhere) before then, I can avoid the bench altogether.

So, I solicit your prayers and advice. If you know someone who needs help in an area where I have skills, please let me know. I see myself as a Linux, Perl and web server guru, with experience in Java, C and C++. But I may need to see myself differently, and that's one area where your advice may be most useful to me. And I'm crazy about Apple computers and their OS X operating system. It would be very sweet to land a job that involved a Mac machine.

Of course, a dream job would let me focus on making music and being a music director.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Cat Scratches

Among our six cats, the one who seeks me out more often than the others (even more often than Tiba) is Socks.

Her purpose in life seems to be to share a location with me. When I'm sitting in the gray comfy chair, she sits on the back near my shoulders and head. When Vicki and I read our devotions in bed each morning, Socks sits on the night stand beside me, or curls up on my knee. And when I walk past the bathroom, she rushes in, hoping that I'll go and sit down. She doesn't seem to want to be scritched or petted, much, but she wants to be near me, preferrably to "own" me by being the sole cat in my space.

One of our bathrooms is right beside the front door. Anytime I walk to the front door, Socks interprets it as a potential bathroom visit, and rushes ahead to claim the space. I usually just disappoint her by walking out the door, but occasionally I scoop her up and take her along. In this way Socks has visited the drive-throughs at Taco Bell and Starbucks.

Tonight, right around sunset I decided to go clean out the mailbox. (Hi Mom . . . got the pictures. Thanks!) Socks, of course, headed for the bathroom, and this time I scooped her up and carried her out the door with me. She is never crazy about being carried, much less being carried out the door. As an indoor cat, she knows that what's beyond that door is not her territory. She bore the incident with her usual mild resistance as I collected the mail, but as we passed the van on the way back into the house she became more serious about freeing herself from my arm. Of course, my other hand was now full of newsprint and envelopes, and it was with difficulty that I maintained control of the situation, er, cat, until we made it back into the house.

I spent the next several minutes with Vicki pouring hydrogen-peroxide into the scratches on my left wrist and right hand. Tough love, eh?

[File under "Lessons I should learn this time"]

Thursday, January 12, 2006

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

~ Albert Einstein
I saw this quote yesterday on the Mutts web page.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Personalized Plates

Yesterday I put my new personalized plates on the CRX. I haven't taken a picture yet, but . . . soon, I hope.

I had originally applied for plates that read MUSICMN, MUSCMAN or NSTRMNT. The clerk had looked-up and crossed-off the first two options as being in use already, so I was expecting the third. However, the plates I received read
I guess someone moved out of Maryland in the last few weeks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Inflection Point

I am scheduled to take a third exam next Wednesday, January 18, as a necessary part of my career path at IBM. I clearly have the option to refuse this exam. However, if I choose not to take this exam at this time, it will necessitate my deployment to a different project, at best, and potentially to a different part of IBM or to another company or industry altogether. I see next Wednesday as something of an inflection point in my career.

Until today I held out a hope of easily moving to another part of IBM. Last winter, while on the bench, I did some work of interest to another IBM team, but they were unable to hire me at that time. Today I had a conversation with a manager there, and they again have no openings, although they remember and appreciate the work I did. It appears today that that door is closed to me.

Although I have received some much-appreciated encouragement from colleagues, I continue to have a deep and abiding interest in not taking this exam. I continue to pray that God will arrange things so that I do not need to undertake this experience at this time, if He is so willing, and I solicit your prayers in this matter. If He wants me to stay the course, I pray that I will know His presence as I walk through the shadows in this particular valley.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What's the best thing you could be working on,…

…and why aren't you?
This article by one of my favorite thinkers, Paul Graham, is mostly about procrastination. But three-quarters of the way down the page Paul applies the concepts to the comfort-shattering necessity of doing the right thing.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Baptism January 28

See this post for details.

Constant Kindness…

Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.
  - Albert Schweitzer

I found this quote recently on the homepage of the Mutts comic strip.