I am now freelancing!

Hello friends and readers! I have not posted much here as there really has not been much to post. I am working full time, raising the family, doing martial arts and all the other stuff. However, my wife’s job is in jeopardy due to some new laws so she does not have as many students to teach.

I have decided to try to fill the gap by offering myself as a proofreader/writer on Fiverr. So if you need any help with getting your term paper, article, book chapter or whatever reviewed and edited, please check out my seller page here: https://www.fiverr.com/share/bmGK41.

I promise I won’t turn my blog into an advertising site, this is just a way to allow my skills to be used and earn some extra cash in the process! Take care friends!

Moving to Warp Speed

Hello friends! It’s been a while since I posted here and honestly, I have not had much to talk about in the IT world or the gaming world. My job has now transitioned to me being in charge of the Security Incident and Event Manager (SIEM) for our company and not any IAM stuff at all. I am still teaching my Liberty classes albeit with some dips from time to time due to class availability. However, I finally have something interesting to post about… I got a new gaming laptop!

As many of you might remember from a post way back in 2011, I purchased a brand new Alienware R13 gaming laptop and kept it as my primary laptop for many years. Then, in 2015, I added new hardware to the laptop instead of spending the $2k it would cost to buy a new laptop. This helped me get by for a few more years and I just settled for sub-par graphics and performance to still enjoy games.

Fast forward to March 2019, my laptop is now 8 years old with some minor hardware upgrades made 4 years previous. I generally keep my laptop near my living room chair so that I can easily grab it and start gaming when needed. This is usually behind a table in the living room. That is where it stayed. However, my children decided to bring popcicles into the living room. One of my kids did this and forgot their snack on the edge of the aforementioned living room table. The end result is that the frozen popsicle eventually melted and drained… right into the USB port on the side of my laptop.

For a week or so, the device kept working normally with only a few minor hiccups. However, I started noticing that none of the USB ports on the side that received the drip seemed to work properly. Even the USB receiver for my trackball was starting to randomly not work or forget that it exists. I knew that the drainage did more damage than I had initially planned. So, after much negotiating, my dear wife decided that I could officially purchase a new laptop.

I did weeks of research, asking countless friends for their suggestions. I also watched many YouTube reviews, read hardware articles, etc. Ultimately, I decided on the ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) Strix Scar II. I have loved Asus for years and put their motherboards in many of my home built PC’s. I even purchased their router (not the best one I admit) and their monitors (surprisingly hearty). I didn’t buy the absolute highest end device, but I got one that is pretty darn beefy.

ProcessorIntel Core i7-8750 Hexa Core CPU
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB DDR6
RAM16GB DDR4 2666mhz
Display17.3″ 1920 x 1080, 144Mhz

Wow! This thing is really moving my gaming into warp speed. The performance increase in graphics is so ridiculous that I can’t even remember what it was like before this. Granted, some of my favorites such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, have not had much of a change in the graphics since 2011, but the world does look more vibrant. The change in performance on Skyrim was pretty noticeable as well, the world is 100 times more realistic and enveloping than I imagined.

The place I have probably seen some of the most improvement is in my go-to brain relaxer – The Sims 4. While it’s true that although I have some minor mods to change appearance, the Sims still do not look like true humans, they look more realistic than before. For example, one of the characters added with the “City Living” expansion is a character named Miyo Oko. She’s obviously designed to follow Yoko Ono as the basis, but then they added some very Anime-esque elements to her including hot pink hair and a silly kawaii shirt. When I was looking at her close up last night (using the cool new “First Person view”), I saw…layers in her hair… it was crazy. You can see individual layers of her hair and it doesn’t just appear on her head as a glob of pink. Plus, the “Get Famous” expansion causes certain Sims who have become stars to have a “Fame Shine” based on the level of fame they have. When one of the sims reaches “Global Superstar” they have enough stars glowing in the air around them to make the vampires from Twilight nervous. With this hardware, the shine seems to wash over the character and reflect off their bodies. I cannot explain how ridiculous that is on a video game.

I also found that the graphics on some of my other standby games has increased as well. For instance, I fired up World of Warcraft to do some mindless fighting for a bit. Blizzard made a texture enhancement about a year ago to all the base characters in the game. My old laptop was not really able to show much difference there, but the new one, it is quite pronounced. As the characters move, their clothes flow and bounce much like you would expect in real world conditions. The textures of their bodies, faces, hands, feet, etc. seem much softer and more detailed. But more than that… the world itself is 10x more immersive on this new gear. The sky, the grass, the leaves, the water, etc. it’s all so realistic that it is crazy.

I have one more big thing to try. I was offered the ability to pick a new game from a list of complimentary games as a bonus for purchasing my laptop. I ultimately decided on “Anthem” which was released only a few short months ago. I have not yet fired this game up to see what it looks like on the hardware, but I plan to do so very soon.

So far, I am very pleased with this new gear. I just wish I could remember to install the second SSD soon… running out of space very quickly.

Until next time, goodbye!

Sims 4: Get to Work – But Only Retail!


I know that this is normally my technology blog and I have a separate blog all about retro gaming but I have a gaming conversation that is not retro, only gaming. I have been a fan of The Sims games for years, having played every major installment of the game and most of the important expansion packs that came out. We are currently in the era of Sims 4 but I do not think any word has come out about Sims 5. Originally, I only purchased The Sims 4 base when it came out. I later purchased The Sims 4: Get to Work because I liked being able to follow my sim to work. Just recently, I saw a good deal from EA and purchased “Get Together” and “Vampires”. Obviously, when I have new game content to play with, I have a period of time where I want to play more of the game to enjoy it.

So I’ve already had fun with Get Together EP because it allows me to be a DJ and allows me to create any number of things, including crazy cults if I so chose. Vampires is a whole other item entirely. I did enjoy playing it for a bit but decided that while I was happy to try the vampire life, I was glad to discover the cure for vampirism and return to being a normal Sim even though I’d forgotten how much time the sims spend going to the bathroom and making/preparing food. But I had another reason for curing my vampirism – opening a business.

I had expected that by working my character’s ability up to theĀ  max level in DJ that I could get a job as a DJ but you cannot. I then figured that I could open a club and then be “self employed” as a DJ. This also does not work, at least not in the way it should work. You see, “Get to Work” only allows you to create a “Retail Lot” where you must sell things. You cannot even buy a lot marked as “Nightclub”. You CAN create a retail lot, send it to your library, then replace it on the world and mark it as a “Nightclub” but then you cannot own it. So unless I’m mixing and selling drinks (which you can do but it is really hard to do), you cannot run a night club.

However, I finally came up with a good idea – make a vampire-themed store. You see, I still have lots of vampire items (Plasma Packs, Plasma Fruit, Wolfsbane, Sixam Mosquito Seeds, and Garlic) that now, as I’m no longer a vampire, do not need. My trees still produce the fruit/seeds, so it’s easy to restock. However, the main item everyone keeps buying from me is a vampire-themed chair. This is a standard item that I’m selling even though you can manually buy it from the “Buy Mode” but I guess the NPC’s in the game can’t. Oh well, making $2k per night selling chairs is pretty good living for a former vampire. Now, if I can only make the DJ stuff more financially feasible.

I hope you enjoyed this interesting distraction from my normal posts.

Life Transitions

It is long overdue time for my super delayed update to this blog and my obligatory excuse but this time I actually have good reason for real! As of March 21, I left my comfortable position with the University of Oklahoma to take on a new adventure… this time in a whole other state! I accepted a position with a financial services company in the Kansas City, MO area and started on April 2nd. This was not a decision that I took lightly as I did feel like there was much left to be done at OU but the more I considered some of the key issues – underfunded education for my children (see OK Teacher Walk Out), considerable process changes at OU and the state of the IAM program, I decided that the time to make a move had come.

I had been feeling the pain of the tightening budgets in Oklahoma (remember that OU is technically a part of the government of Oklahoma which is broke), lack of potential funding for future projects, and considerable power struggles that are par for the course in higher education, I decided to open myself to new positions… specifically ones that were not in the state of Oklahoma. I was in the running for positions from Palo Alto, CA to Austin, TX to Philadelphia, PA and… two in Kansas City, MO. Turns out that one of the positions in KCMO (as locals call it) had been looking to fill a position like mine for almost a year. After 6 months, the leadership found me and began watching me and waiting for the right time. Finally, they sent their HR team to ask me about the potential interest for the position. In looking at things, the city was only 5 hours away from Oklahoma so I could be close enough to my dear sweet mom and friends should I need them. With the potential salary offered, I could see a great potential to improve our life standing if I played my cards right.

The interviews occurred at breakneck speed. I had a phone interview with their HR person on a Monday. Then, on Wednesday, I had a phone interview with two technical people who I would work closely with. Then, on Friday, I had an interview with the hiring manager. A week later, I hopped in my car and made a perilous drive to Kansas City, MO (in the midst of ice and snow) and did my in-person interview. By the time I left KCMO, the manager basically said “you got the job, we just have to put the offer together.” So I waited and got an offer a few days later. The initial offer was heartbreaking because it was not what I had been told I could get and might not make the financial situation much better. I came in with a high ball offer and we met at almost my offer. The deal was sealed.

The next thing you know, I am working like a mad man to dejunk our house so that the paid relocation movers wouldn’t haul a bunch of junk. My wife and even my kids stepped up and started reducing. Fast forward to 3/26 and I am loading a UHaul trailer with the basic belongings we needed to start life until the movers came. I packed my two oldest kids into the car and I left Oklahoma. I wish I could say that I was a tough guy but I absolutely cried to leave my wife, three smaller children and exchange students at home. I spent the last week of March living like a single dad with two kids until I started my job. There were plenty of ups and downs including the trailer refusing to detach until I hit a bump at the school and sent it soaring into my muffler, ice and snow, flaking nannies and countless other things. However, the tide is slowly turning.

I now live in a house with Gigabit Fiber (unlike my 1 mbps line of sight internet), I have three floors of house space, it takes me less than 5 minutes to get to basic things and only 20 to get to even bigger things in my car. My commute is a bit more grisly as I spend about 20 minutes in bumper to bumper traffic to get into town. However, I can start to see the better school for my kids, the cheaper cost for most basic things, and most of all, a huge opportunity for growth. That’s where I have been and where I am going to be. My family will be fully reunited in June but until then, I feel the pain of a single, working dad with two kids. By faith I persevere.

Bundling choices with Twine

Hey there my dusty old blog! It’s been too long since I last put some information out here. I am still actively involved with IAM at OU, still teaching at Liberty, and still doing things like watching Doctor Who and playing SWTOR. I was recently selected to be the Higher Education coordinator for the Identiverse 2018 conference in Boston and I am very proud to be making some efforts at getting presenters and content available. But what else have I been doing? Would you believe that I am writing programs again? Well… sort of.

For this to make sense, I want to back up just a few months. I have never been that avid of a mobile gamer. I have two phones (one for work and one for home) and certainly keep them on me frequently. I have a few fun time wasters like Subway Surf, SongPop, and Bejeweled Stars. But beyond a brief foray into Game of War: Fire Age (which I had to quit because it was an extensive waste of my free time), I really did not do much in the way of games. That is, of course, until an Ad in SongPop showed me a game called “Choices” by Pixelberry Studios. If you are old enough to remember the “Choose your Own Adventure” books where you read a section and then, decide to either turn to page 301 if you fight the giant or go to page 29 if you ran for shelter in the caves, then you will have a taste of what Choices is like. Basically, the game is really a meta game with many ‘stories’ included (many of which are frequently having new chapters added weekly) where you get to read text, make a choice, and the game reacts accordingly. Add the fact that you have some very nicely done artwork and cool (if somewhat predictable) music, and you have a game that is very interesting.

I started playing through the game “The Crown and the Flame” which is a medieval fantasy RP about a princess and her childhood friend who are attacked by an evil empire and ousted from their home. You play the estranged Princess (well, ahem, Queen) Kenna in parts of the story and in others you play her rough and tumble “person of unknown history”TM friend Dominic Hunter. There are some incidentals where you play other characters but these are usually short term. The story unfolds across 3 books that are at least 12-15 chapters each. I couldn’t get enough of this game because every choice I made allowed me to do new things and see this grand tapestry unfold.

After finishing the series, I jumped from “The Crown and the Flame” to “Endless Summer” which, by the cover art appeared to be a ‘spring break party’ story and ended up being what I lovingly call “Lost: The Video Game”. However, with its air of mystery, catchy soundtrack, and deeply troubling storyline, I was hooked hard core. I have since completed the entire Endless Summer series but was woefully unhappy that you can’t really ‘win’ the game if you aren’t willing to pay. Many games have ‘freemium’ features that are designed to make the game more interactive or fun, but they usually do not prevent you from completing the game. That is not the case in Endless Summer. I spent hours glued to the game trying different choices and occasionally opting for premium features, only to get to the Epilogue and find out that I can’t actually see the full end of the game unless I pay 60 credits to recover six items that are needed to see the full ending. I still haven’t paid this and I feel lied to. Now I am on to “High School Story” which is another two-parter but so far I have played through one book without any issues with the paywall.

So what does this all mean for programming? Well, as you all know, I have been an RPG fan for years, I even run a Retro Gaming Blog where I talk about various RPG’s from the Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega. However, I am also an avid tabletop gamer… or at least I was until my personal and professional life made time for tabletop gaming virtually impossible. I have created many different games in my years as a teenager and as a young adult that I played with my friends. In some cases, I even wrote an entire RPG system (called the Realm Wars system) connected to my original homebrew series, Realm Wars. I have also served as Game Master (GM) or Dungeon Master (DM) depending on your vernacular in popular systems such as BESM 2 and 3, Dungeons and Dragons 3rd, 4th and 5th Edition, Rifts, and several systems my friends created including the Super Anime Wars (SAW) system and many others. As if my nerd flag was not raised high enough, I originally created a nautical-themed Multi-User Cyber Kingdom (MUCK) with a nautical theme from which my original web server, Darkseas, earned its name. Even more? Yes… there’s more. I am also a closet writer who has created many stories, books, and poems over my life. I find that writing stories is extremely enjoyable work and I often viewed the various RPG’s that I ran with my friends as forms of creative story writing, just with a team of people instead of on my own.

Surely you see what this is leading up to… right? Well… I am bundling all that together (see the title). There is a neat program called “Twine” that I was exposed to as a technology used at my university employer to help “Gamify” learning material. It is basically a technology that allows you to create self-contained webpage games that let you… MAKE CHOICES! Ultimately, you can make your own adventures with a very simple language that includes elements of HTML (something I learned to hand code in my early college years). You can also make it very creative by either writing your own JavaScript modules/code to help you program things or use the built in functions of one of Twine’s built in languages (Harlowe, SnowMan, and SugarCube). If you know some Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which I learned enough to be dangerous with but never particularly excelled at, then you can make this game very shiny and interesting. That’s what I have started doing!

Now, I should say that I am still learning the more complicated aspects of Twine thanks to several awesome YouTube videos, but I can spin up a very basic game without much trouble. In fact, you can sample this by checking out my first full game that was a modified version of the Space Explorer game I learned to code on YouTube. I call it “Space Jump” and you can go out and give it a go if you’d like. As I get better at programming in Twine, I hope to take many game ideas in my brain and turn them in to fully playable Twine games. Maybe you’ll see one of my stories such as “The Meranite Chronicles” or “Osiris” turned into a Twine-based game. We’ll see.

That’s it for now! I am diving back into coding with Twine!

Finally! An IAM Certification

Today is a very exciting day! I was informed today that I have been accepted as a Certified Identity and Access Manager (CIAM) from the Identity Management Institute. This is a nationally recognized, vendor-neutral certification showing that I am qualified to design, build, manage and maintain an Identity Management program for any organization. It focuses on strict adherence to professional guidelines and best practices in the field with a strong focus on the security underpinnings of the technology.

I have always said that it would fantastic if there was a certification outside of vendor certifications and it finally happened! Very excited to add this credential to my title!

Moving On Up

Friends, I have some great news to report. I was silent about it for a long time due to my situation but I can now freely discuss matters. I have been dealing with a number of professional challenges in my current position and have been searching for new employment for almost a year. The problem I ran into is that my current employer paid me quite well and I was having a very hard time finding anyone who would pay me anything comparable. However, that has finally changed!

I am pleased to report that as of March 9, 2015, I will be taking a position of IT Architect I – Security and Incident Response Team Lead with none other than the great University of Oklahoma (Boomer!). This is truly one of the best possible situations I could be in. Not only is this position clearly my first crack at IT Management as my actual career but also it is working with an IT Security team to build things from the ground up. Although the title itself reflects security and incident response, my actual duties will be more focused on building the Identity and Access Management system at OU from the ground up.

If you are not aware, my last great accomplishment at Chesapeake Energy before the evil Black Tuesday (where 640 employees including yours truly were released due to downsizing) was building their IDM system. I really enjoyed working in the world of IDM and found that I had a natural knack for figuring out how to make the systems we were connecting to ‘talk’ to each other and we could have done much more if the funding and resources had been there. In the case of OU, almost all of their IT Security initiatives can be easily linked to building a true IDM structure and figuring out how to streamline it. I could not ask for a better place to be.

As time goes on, I hope to occasionally scribble down my various thoughts about different adventuresĀ  I have in working with a brand new IT Security Team (the team has only been active for about a year or two and so it is really like working for a startup). Although I have to go back to wearing khakis, polo shirts and professional shoes instead of my current employer’s jeans, tennis shoes and polo shirts attire, I don’t mind it. I feel that one of the things that shows your professional acumen is your dress and when I am ‘dressed for success’ I feel more accomplished then when I am in casual comfort.

Stay tuned and I hope to offer new and interesting insights! Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it, I am also now listed as an Adjunct Professor of Cybersecurity with Liberty University Online. I am trained and ready to have my first class but the new semester does not start until May so I have until April to get used to my new job at OU before taking on classes as well. How I will balance both jobs given that I expect my OU position to be more time intensive than my current position is yet to be seen but I am sure I will be able to work it out.

The Value of a Good Employee

For the first time in my professional life I have had a situation where my employer made it clear that they wanted to keep me around because I am a good employee. If you follow my blog at all, you will know that I work as a contractor for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). This job is one of the best I have had in a long time. I get to wear jeans, a polo, and sneakers to work every day and that is the normal attire. The actual office environment (to me) is very relaxed and the people have fun doing silly things and engaging in silly conversations. However, the job, being a contract only job has no guarantee of permanency and I was concerned that with 2 babies on the way and a total of 5 kids, I would be in majorly bad shape if the contract was suddenly ended. I didn’t actively look at jobs but I did apply to a few internal positions and I entertained a few interviews from my recruitment friends.

Finally, about a month ago, I was contacted by a recruitment firm about a permanent position doing the exact same work that I did at Chesapeake. I did the phone interview and found that I would easily be able to fit in that role and it seemed like a pretty good deal. The following week, I did an in-person interview and made quite an impression on the team based off what I was told. I was starting to get anxious about a job change since I really didn’t think that I could get much better than my current role but I wanted that sense of permanency and I felt like it would be wise to take the position. Not long after that event, I was told that the company was so pleased with me that they were going to skip one of their screening stages (candidate interviewed by management). They moved me right up to the front and I let them begin doing my background check but I held out putting my notice in until an offer letter came.

On the very next Monday after I had went through the background check stuff, I received an offer letter for the new position and I created and delivered my 2weeks notice. I had gone out on a limb and risked a job I liked for a position that seemed more permanent and even prepared to give up some of my favorite coworkers whom I had begun to consider friends beyond work. Shortly after laying the letter on the manager’s desk (he was gone at the time), the second in command came by my desk and advised that he was very impressed with my letter style and professionalism. Only a short while later, the manager came by and said he wanted to talk to me about my letter tomorrow morning which I happily agreed to. I learned later that the second in command spoke to one of my friends here as they were leaving and he expressed that he was genuinely concerned about my desire to leave and my friend talked up my ability quite a bit.

The next day, I waited patiently for the meeting to come with the manager. He finally came by and brought me into the conference room with the second in command. Much to my amazement, they talked at great length about the quality of work I performed, how professional I was on a team that has not always been known for professionalism and countless other compliments. I had no idea how highly they regarded me as an employee. They made it very clear that my work was appreciated and they were willing to fight for me to stay. I told them the salary that I was going to make and they said they would try to match it. The meeting ended and I waited until my manager was ready for the next meeting.

By the end of the day, I was back in the room and offered a salary that matched my offer from the other company as well as the promise for opening up training in project management for my current company when the projects were closer to being viable. In essence, I got a raise and the potential for management stripes. Needless to say, it didn’t take me much thought to rescind my notice and go back to work.

The moral of the story is that you never know how much you are worth to your company until you ask. I wouldn’t suggest that people randomly put in notices in hopes of a raise but rather that you should not be afraid to ask your management what they think of you. I also think it speaks volumes to me that my employer cared enough about me to fight to keep me here. A company that is willing to do that is worth paying attention to!

My Masters Degree is Complete!

This is a very exciting update! As of Monday April 28, 2014, I have completed all of the requirements for my Master of Science in Cybersecurity from the University of Maryland University College (UMUC). This may seem kind of silly to be bragging about this, you have to understand that this is the culmination of many years of work. My wife and I have been together for about 15 years. If you count high school as well, I have been in school (of some kind) for over 12 of the 15 years we have been together! I finished my AAS in 2003, took a brief break and then went after my BS in 2005. I got that one in 2007 and took another break. I started in my M.Div and completed about 15 hours towards it before I realized it was not going to be easy to recoup the expense. Finally I chose the MS in Cybersecurity and now I am done with it!

So what will I do now? Well, I still have to make the trip out to Maryland in mid-May with my mother and my daughter so that I can attend my commencement. I was accepted as a member of Upsilon Pi Epsilon which came with a snazzy certificate, pin and honor cords to wear at the commencement ceremony. I have already received my cap, gown and academic hood to wear and my card to present to the commencement announcer. Basically, all that is left is to hop on the plane and go!

Once I get back from the graduation what will I do? That is where things get a little cloudy. The sole purpose of attaining my degree (other than personal growth) was so that I could become a teacher. The academic rules in the USA state that an instructor must hold at least one degree higher than the degree level of the students being taught. That is to say that since I have my Masters, I am permitted to teach Associate and Bachelor’s courses. I could also serve as a TA for professor who holds a doctorate and help co-teach Master’s classes but generally a TA can only TA for a Master’s if they, too, are attempting to attain a Doctorate which I am not.

Sure, I would love to be called “Doctor Dave” but my Masters was grueling enough with 3 kids and I will soon have 5. My wife has already threatened to disown me if I take on my PhD. Happy wife – happy life – that is my philosophy. Plus, I have already missed out so much on the lives of my 3 current children and I don’t want to miss out on any more of there lives or on the lives of my new twins due in August. So… this is as far as I go.

My hope now is that I will get picked up by a university to teach online classes for Bachelors or even associates level classes part time. If I get a position such as this, I can start to pay back the over $90k in student loans that I have racked up with the proceeds from teaching and still work my full time job. As it stands, I don’t think my current employer really considers my Masters degree as grounds for promotion but it is nice to have on my resume anyway.

For now, I am going to tie up the loose ends on my dad’s estate and I have been busily working on adding lots of new stuff to my RetroGamerBoy site. That’s all for now.


Where Did I go?

So it’s time for another famously long overdue update. I have been busy so I have not been able to post on my blog often. After several interested parties and interviews, I finally picked a new job. On October 18, 2013 I took a position with Consulting Services Incorporated, a Federal Contractor. I am now employed as an IdSS Tier III Engineer with DISA as a contractor. In English? I administer federal email accounts as a Forefront Identity Management (FIM) Engineer. It’s a unique job that mixes a little bit of everything I have used over the years. I am also glad to say that I have made a number of friends on my team and with other auxiliary team members.

What else is new? Well, in February I start my Capstone class for my MS in Cybersecurity. That means that by May, if all goes well, I will have successfully completed my Master’s Degree. Where will I go from there? Who knows? Hopefully into some teaching capacity to enhance income with my other job.