Matt Brundage

Archive for the 'introspection' category

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Robert Gaudin Greene, June 23, 1924–September 27, 2016

Robert Gaudin Greene

From the beginning, there were strands that once anchored me to my childhood. In government, it was President Ronald Reagan. In faith, Pope John Paul II (now Saint John Paul the Great). In sports, baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. In music, Brian Wilson. And in family, it was my late grandfather, Robert Gaudin Greene. It’s hard to explain, but their continued presence in my life served as a sort of willful suspension of time. In a way, I could keep telling myself, “Time isn’t really passing …” or “The world is just as it was …” as long as my childhood heroes — my strands — were still alive and thriving. As long as Papa was around, I was still but a child, an adolescent. But on Tuesday morning, another strand came loose, as my grandfather passed into eternal life.

His obituary:

On September 27, 2016 Robert Morgan Gaudin Greene, age 92, peacefully passed away in Rockville, MD. He was born on June 23, 1924 in Waco, TX, the 6th of 7 children, the fourth of five sons — the Martlet — of James Floyd Greene and Mary Louise Dupre. At the age of five, his family settled in Birmingham, AL where he attended Lakeview Elementary School, Ramsay High School, Birmingham Southern College, and Howard College (now Samford University). He enlisted in the US Navy in World War II, advancing to the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. He served on the destroyer U.S.S. Hall, the hospital ship U.S.S. Consolation, and the gasoline tanker U.S.S. Patapsco. After the War, he settled in the Washington D.C. area and received a Mechanical Engineering degree from the Catholic University of America. He married the former Ellen Rowena Deckelman on November 8, 1952.

Robert Gaudin Greene weds Ellen Rowena Deckelman on November 8, 1952

Mr. Greene had a varied career starting as a Mechanical Engineer for the Bureau of Ships Model Basin and then to the U.S. Army Biological Laboratories at Fort Detrick. He served as the Patent Security Officer of the U.S. Army from 1973 until 1980. After 26 years of Army employment, he retired in 1980 as a General Engineer from Headquarters US Army Material Command. He was a life-long Catholic with membership in the Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary and Holy Name Society and was a founding member of St Elizabeth Parish in Rockville, MD. He attended Gaithersburg Community Bible Study for several years. Among his hobbies were fishing, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, antique clock repair, traveling, and being among family. He leaves behind his beloved wife Ellen, and 3 children: Theresa M. Brundage (Geoffrey) of Olney, MD, Paul V. of Rockville, MD and Kevin M. (Amy) of Elmira, NY, 8 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by 1 grandchild in 1998. He is survived by a brother, Edward A. Greene of Chevy Chase, MD.

There’s an old saying that goes something like, “You never have to ask someone if they’re a veteran, because they’ll just tell you. And then they’ll keep reminding you again and again.” However, this saying in no way applied to my grandfather. Very rarely did I hear about his service in the Navy during World War II, or of his employment as a mechanical engineer with the Army during Korea and Vietnam. Papa was always perfectly modest about it, even considering the degree of reverence that society typically bestows upon WWII veterans — the quintessential members of the Greatest Generation.

My only recollection of his time in the Navy comes from his naval enlistment photograph, framed and still hanging in the hallway of his home. I’d pass by that faded photograph from time to time, pausing for just a moment to meditate on the man in the picture. I saw it again recently and it was like peering into a mirror.

Robert Gaudin Greene joins the Navy

From my earliest memories, I witnessed his seemingly unbounded intelligence and curiosity. For instance, he knew the binomial nomenclature of scores of flora and fauna. He restored old clocks and household appliances. For years, he kept his mind sharp by finishing the Washington Post crossword puzzle before breakfast. His copies of the dictionary and the Scrabble players dictionary are ragged and lined with his frequent notes and addenda. Yes, he edited the dictionary!

He retired at age 56, the year I was born. He lived a humble, mostly quiet life in retirement. Even though his lifestyle was never lavish, I still managed to get the impression that he never had to worry about money. As a child, having sleepovers at Grandma and Papa’s house was always a special time, always a calming experience. Papa was, in every sense of the word, a model grandfather.

Deep in my heart — that’s where the knot comes loose.

Robert Gaudin Greene

Friday, 16 April 2010

The futility of criticism

I’ve recently come to the realization that most criticism is ultimately futile, and for a variety of reasons:

You may face obstinacy

Some people just don’t take criticism well. The evidence is there: just take a look at their kindergarten report cards. Unfortunately, the types of people who exhibit brash, offensive, or inconsiderate behavior are also the types of people who will pay no heed to your remonstrances — however well-intentioned.

You risk looking like a stuck-up snoot

Say a friend or co-worker is cracking wise on topics generally considered to be scatological or prurient. What do you do? Indicating that certain conversation is “beneath you” will only make you come across as a holier-than-thou prude. And you also run the risk of being a hypocrite if you someday tolerate — or worse, make — similar comments.

You may be wrong

When attempting to correct someone, there’s always that hint of doubt that your advice is incorrect, inappropriate for that particular person, or could possibly be incorrect in the future.

You won’t be giving the person the benefit of the doubt

Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is actually easy in traffic situations. If someone cuts you off or comes too close, perhaps he didn’t see you, or perhaps he has a higher tolerance than you do for shorter distances between vehicles. If the car ahead of you is traveling below the speed limit or exhibiting inappropriate lane-changing behavior, then perhaps the driver is inexperienced, has low vision, is experiencing an acute illness, is bereaved, or some combination of the above.

However, giving a person the benefit of the doubt can lead to careless assumptions about a person’s intelligence, or lack thereof: “Why does that lady keep bumping into me on the train, and not even apologize?” Perhaps certain motor skills are still too advanced for her small brain.

You may be overlooking cultural differences

Case in point: the mullet factor. Hispanic men are generally exempt from the “no mullets” rule and any criticism relating to mullets.

You may push someone over the edge

Any criticism on your part may be taken the wrong way and you could wind up being the contributing factor to someone’s early demise.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The first ten years

screenshot This month marks the tenth anniversary of my website. I registered mattbrundage.com in early 2003, but the site had existed for three years prior at the now-defunct geocities.com.

I’m stopping short of providing a gallery of screen shots of my site through the years, but this I can tell you: the site gets progressively less embarrassing as time goes by. But even in rare instances when the design wasn’t half-bad, the underlying code was — by current standards — atrocious. A few examples:

  • I didn’t specify a doctype declaration, with the reasoning that I was keeping the page weight low. For similar reasons, or perhaps out of sheer laziness, I didn’t always enclose attribute values in double quotes. Doh! Both of these heinous practices ended in 2004.
  • In lieu of server-side file includes, I was using JavaScript includes simply to output common navigation menus on the page. In some parts of the site, this practice persisted until 2007. 2007!
  • I didn’t start validating my code until the summer of 2004, around the time that I started using Firefox. And yes, my site was “broken” when I first viewed it in Firefox, then on version 0.8 or 0.9.
  • I was declaring font sizes in points rather than “em”s or percentages as late as 2005.
  • I would sometimes separate paragraphs with two <br> tags instead of wrapping them in <p> tags. This practice finally ended site-wide in 2007.
  • I didn’t even start indenting my code at any discernible frequency until late 2007 — it was a conscious decision to keep the page weight as low as possible.

I feel as if I have finally absolved myself of past web development sins. The only real bright spot in my early code seems to be my wholehearted embrace of CSS.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Adult Onset Pescetarianism

It all started on May 22, 2009, en route to Bethany Beach. Annie and I pulled up at a stoplight somewhere near Bridgeville, DE. Next to us was a big red truck full of live chickens, presumably heading to a slaughterhouse. The chickens were virtually motionless and didn’t look too happy. Annie became distraught and I’ll admit that I was a bit freaked out by it as well.

The “Cluck Truck” incident has slowly changed our eating habits. While I had been observing meatless Fridays for some time, Annie soon started the same. Once a week became twice a week. Then thrice. Meatless days became the rule, rather than the exception.

Over the summer, our meat supply dwindled and was not replenished. Beef, pork, and chicken: gone. By fall, practically the only non-vegetarian food in our house was fish and seafood. And we’re starting to wean ourselves off the cholesterol-laden seafood as well.

If we had to put a label on our eating habits, we’d be “pescetarians with rare exceptions.” My recent exceptions include a trip to Outback Steakhouse in November (rationalized with a $10 coupon) and a hamburger at a company party last week. Perhaps with time, these dalliances will become less frequent, and then peter out.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Pet Peeves

Being a snob, it was only a matter of time before this list surfaced. Enjoy.

Technology

The way that incredible technology always seems to be 2 or 3 years away from implementation or cost-effectiveness through mass production. Think mainstream electric cars, LED lighting, OLED display panels, super-efficient solar panels, SSD, or basically any improvement that promises to cut energy usage “in half.”

Microsoft Internet Explorer, namely the 6th version.

The subtle adverts that Quicken puts in its software — software that I’ve paid for, I might add.

The seeming inability to change the color of unread messages in Lotus Notes 6.5.1. It’s a bright fire-engine red. I just know that this must be having a detrimental psychological effect on me.

Politics and government

The over-reaching scope of the US Federal government. The apparent inability of the government to stop taxing, regulating, and subsidizing once precedents have been set. For instance, subsidization of corn and excessive taxation of diesel fuel.

Studies that reveal that many Americans can’t name the three branches of government, identify a single Supreme Court justice, or point to a well-known country on a map.

The tendency for people to vote for a candidate for non-political reasons, as such historicity, popularity, stage presence, or charm.

Food

mama celeste The ingredients list of certain Celeste pizza products. Hint: you’re not eating cheese. Instead, your body will attempt to digest Imitation Mozzarella Cheese (Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Casein [Milk], Modified Food Starch, Trisodium Citrate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Natural Flavor, Disodium Phosphate, Artificial Color, Guar Gum, Sorbic Acid [to Preserve Freshness], Artificial Flavor) An abomination before the Lord! Lately, I’ve taken to making my own insalata caprese-style pizza. Now that’s what I call food.

My inability to ingest spicy hot foods without having an acute attack of the hiccups.

The ubiquity of high fructose corn syrup.

Social settings

Being expected to laugh or smile at jokes that just aren’t funny.

Having to resist the urge to say “I shouldn’t have to tell you more than once!” when playing volleyball.

Annie’s camera shyness. This is especially cruel, considering that she’s the most beautiful woman since at least the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Loud talkers with nothing to say.

The inevitability of the aging process.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Snobbery

I’m becoming more and more of a snob every day. (Well, at least according to Annie.) I’d rather call it “discriminating taste” — or in its simplest form, just a preference for one thing over another.

  • I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate, partially hydrogenated oils (margarine), other “unnatural” fats, and needlessly processed food products with unpronounceable ingredients. Instead, I purchase “real”, “natural”, or “organic” whenever possible. I don’t mind paying a bit more for quality. For that, I am a food snob.
  • I won’t drink Merlot, Rosé (White Zinfandel), or wine that has been “embellished”. For that, I am a wine snob.
  • I am through with North American lagers. Instead, my gaze is fixed upon Ireland (Guinness) and Belgium (Chimay). For that, I am a beer snob.
  • I consume an enormous quantity of music, much of it esoteric. I typically get blank stares or polite nods when I try to describe my tastes to people. I value my vinyl records just as much as my CDs. I’m not the kind of music snob who categorizes his collection as classical, jazz, and “other”, but I am a snob nonetheless.
  • While my video collection is comparatively more mainstream than my music collection, certain “guidelines” still apply: Since the beginning of 2008, I have completely stopped purchasing DVDs and have moved on (without any hiccups) to Blu-ray. I’ve even been replacing my old DVDs with their Blu-ray versions. I will never stretch or crop the picture. I prefer to watch a film in its original, theatrical aspect ratio, whether that be 1.33:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1, or any other variation. I cannot be happier that “Full-screen” DVDs are finally being phased out. I am frustrated with people who just don’t get it, especially those with capable widescreen televisions. For that, I am a film and video snob. In this regard, the label of snob may be warranted.
  • My requirements for church are becoming more and more specialized. While I’ve always been Catholic, my adherence to the “weekly requirement” hasn’t always been strict. And by that, I mean that, a few times a year, I would attend a non-Catholic church service and count that as my “weekly”. Never again. It’s even gotten to the point where I’m hesitant to attend a Novus Ordo Mass — especially if it’s in the vernacular; I need to hear the old Mass in Latin. For that, I am a church snob.
  • I’m a stickler for proper grammar usage — a great deal of my Wikipedia edits involve grammar corrections or diction in some form or another. I’ve corrected people in everyday conversation: I remember telling someone once that they had “split the infinitive.” Lately, I’ve been surprised at the frequency at which people use the word “less” when they really mean “fewer.” It boggles the mind. I have strong preferences toward the increased usage of both the serial comma and the subjunctive mood. For that, I am a grammar snob.

In addition, Annie says that I’m a snob in the following categories: cars, clothes, computers, paper shredders, razors, lamps, light bulbs, and books. That’s right. I’m officially a paper-shredder snob.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Mid-month roundup

…This is how I know that I’m a bad blogger: Last week, Annie, her two eldest sisters, and I spent a week out west, conquering the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the open road, yet I have no blog post to show for it! During our stay, we averaged about 100 photos per day. An unwieldy photo gallery is forthcoming, I promise. And, perhaps, some quality commentary.

…Warren Buffett has given us the green light to start investing again; I’m hopeful that next week will be another solid rebuilding week for the Dow. I’ve sufficiently rationalized my “losses” thus far; I’m truly no longer affected by them. It’s all play money until you have to use it. As I focus the bulk of my investments in retirement accounts, a decreasing percentage of my portfolio hinges on the day-to-day rise and fall of stocks.

…Lately, I’ve been enamored by the work of one J.D. Roth, owner and writer of both Get Rich Slowly and Get Fit Slowly. Every day, I’m in awe at the consistent quality of his work. He’s introduced me to a number of related financial sites. With the wealth of good, free financial information available, it’s a wonder why anyone would choose to hire a financial advisor — unless, of course, one dislikes dealing with his financial situation. As for me, I revel in it. At times, I worry that I worry too much about money. I seriously wouldn’t mind getting randomly audited by the IRS. It would be a pleasant experience for me.

On a related note, sometimes I wish that I had significant consumer debt, only because it would be personally gratifying to pay it off. I’m intrigued by stories of people in debt, and the methods they use to overcome their debt and their bad habits. It would be an incredible feeling of accomplishment to eliminate, say, massive credit card debt. The source of your problems is literally subtracted out of existence.

…I was recently bestowed with a couple of quality “seasoned” laptops that my company had long since abandoned: a four-year-old IBM ThinkPad and a slightly older Dell Inspiron 8100. Both are steps up from my current notebook, a Windows 2000-era Dell that makes a grating grinding sound whenever it’s turned on. Oh, and the touchpad frustratingly registers false clicks at random.

…Some of my coworkers and I have just moved into a swing space, as our office area is being renovated. The problem is that it’s four floors below street level, in a secluded, bomb-proof room with no air flow — conditioned or otherwise. I keep telling myself that at least I’m not working in a uranium mine in Novosibirsk, Russia. I’m entertaining the idea of not shaving or otherwise grooming myself for the duration of our stay in the dungeon, as a quiet protest.

…I’m off to the Maryland Renaissance Festival later today, so I suppose that I will take in a couple of turkey legs and a significant amount of jerky. (Annie cannot resist the jerky vendor.) It will be good to be a part of such a large gathering of geeks. No swords allowed. :-(

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Our political environments

Lately, I’ve been wondering to what extent my political worldview was influenced by my parents and my environment when I was a child. Are my beliefs truly my own? Or am I simply regurgitating what I happened to soak in during my formative years? The same set of questions can be asked of anyone with political opinions: is what you believe truly “original”?

I see three possible outcomes, with the first two being the most likely:

  • Opinions are formed by childhood indoctrination — the environment — with little or no resistance by the subject
  • Opinions come as a direct result of rebellion (typically in the teen years). The subject ends up having opinions at odds with those of his environment.
  • The subject forms opinions objectively — with scant indoctrination during the formative years. In this case, the subject’s environment has little or no effect on the subject’s worldview, either positively or negatively.

Rarely is the third outcome given as a explanation of why someone has certain political beliefs. If his environment propagated similar worldviews, then it is likewise credited. But if his environment had dissimilar worldviews, then the subject must have rebelled.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Food and the general state of things

weight Just when I thought it was safe to eat healthy again, Annie goes to the store and brings back two large containers of ice cream, at least two packages of Pepperidge Farm cookies, a dozen doughnuts, tea cookies, chocolate chip cookies, brownies (with sprinkles), spicy hot potato chips, Boboli pizza dough, two four-packs of Starbucks Frappuccinos, and Lord knows what else. Add to that my new affinity toward Dagoba dark chocolate and Jif peanut butter — and Annie’s propensity toward putting those bite-size chocolate morsels and Reese’s peanut butter cups in little bowls in the living room — it’s a wonder that my body hasn’t completely gone to seed.

On the bright side, at long last my weight now starts with a “1” instead of a “2” (well, at least for this week), so I must be doing something right. Let’s see how long it lasts. Here’s another meaningless graphic for those of you who enjoy such things…