Several weeks months ago my friend Alan answered some questions put to him by a friend, and then offered to quiz anyone who asked for it. No-one asked, so I thought I’d give it a go and asked him. Here we go.

1. Warming up: You enjoy music across a variety of genres. Which genre would you pick if you had to choose just one for the rest of your life?

That’s a tough one. I suspect I’d have to say The Blues. There’s so much diversity in that genre that I could probably always find something my soul needed while staying in the genre. I had to think quite a while about this one though.

2. On work: What was the turning point that defined you current career path?

There are about 3 that are of equal importance I think, so I’ll list them here.

  1. In 1990 I was in my first year of college, and working on my first college paper. I went to library hunting a typewriter, and found the only on they had, an old IBM Selectric. I was sitting there typing away and my friend Jim said “Why don’t you use the computer?” “I don’t know how” I replied. “It’s easy, let me show you.” Thus began my experience with DOS and WordPerfect. I loved it, learned how to do everything in WordPerfect, and learned how to dig around on a computer and learn stuff.
  2. In 1994 Cornerstone University (then Grand Rapids Baptist College) got Internet access. At first it was just email, but gradually opened up to have Gopher and Telnet access. Telnet got me to a web browser (Lynx).
  3. Lastly, what I would probably consider THE defining moment for my career. One day a guy named James came up to me and said “Go to this address in Lynx”. I went, and there was a web page that he had created himself. I was floored. I didn’t know normal humans could do that. He said “You should make one, it’s cool”. I said “How?” He showed me how to view source and I was overwhelmed. “I could never learn all that stuff” I said. “Sure you can, it’s easy, let me show you”. I’ve been making web pages ever since.

3. On computers: Why linux?

There are several reasons. I started because when I got a job at Gospelcom that’s what they gave me. I’d only been a windows user for 2 years or so, so it wasn’t long before I had more Linux experience than windows experience.

The world’s a different place now though, and I continue to use it for different reasons.

  • I think it’s visually beautiful. I’ve spent years adjusting and tweaking and finding what really fits ME, and I’m there.
  • Another reason is that I love getting new software and software updates for free whenever I want them. A friend says “Hey, I found this cool thing, it’s amazing, check it out!” I get back to my computer, type in “apt-get install cool-thing” and 15 seconds later I’m using it.
  • I love the security that comes with it. I’m having a hard time coming up with the words to express what I mean. With windows, not only are there zillions of viruses and worms, but there are zillions of WAYS to get them. You have to be thinking all the time “Is this email going to get me? Is this web site going to get me? Is this app I just installed going to get me? Can I click here?” It’s a constant thing. With Linux you have to be careful of course, but it’s things like “Do I have my automatic updates on? Good, then there’s not a lot more I can do, I’ll sleep well”. If someone sends me a virus email, sometimes I open it, just to see what it was hoping to do. I go ahead and go to phishing sites, and look at the source code to see what they’re trying to do. My worries are on a macro level, rather than a micro level. I hope that makes sense.
  • And because penguins are cool.

4. On growing up: You grew up in a rustic setting. What do you miss most about that that you wish your girls could experience?

I love the small town feeling I get when I go back there. On the 4th of July, 35 kids going down the street on bikes wrapped in crepe paper will draw several hundred people. You need some lumber? You go to The Hardware Store and get some. Ask how their kids are doing while you’re there. That’s cool.

I also loved the freedom I had to just go outside and go for miles in any direction from our house. There was nothing there but woods. It’s not quite
the same there any more, there are neighbors as close as a thousand yards away. But there’s still plenty of room to wander. And there’s so much to see and do. All those animals to watch, bugs to watch, plants to find, things to climb, it just never ends. I wish they had some of that.

That said, I’m not sad about the life they have now. There’s an awful lot they’re experiencing that I never got to.

5. On family: What advice would you like to give to new parents, especially parents of girls?

I could write forever, so I’m going to try to keep this concise.

When interacting with your kids, give them 100% of your attention. If you’re talking to someone, and they grab your leg and say “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!”, don’t just toss a “just a minute honey” at them. Say to your friend “Just a sec” and give your kids 100% of your attention. Now, that’s not to say you should end your conversation, in fact you shouldn’t end your conversation, which leads us to point two.

Teach them manners early. In reference to the paragraph above, find out if there’s an emergency, and if there’s not, tell them they need to wait. This can vary based on age. There’s a time in their life when they’ll say “I have to go potty” and everything else in the world stops. But on the whole, if they learn to say “please”, “thank you”, and respect other people, they’ll be very pleasant kids to be around.

As often as possible, help them find the answers to their own questions rather than telling them everything. This doesn’t just apply to basic questions like “Why is the sky blue” that they can look up, but more general questions like “Should my shirt go in the dirty clothes?” We get that a lot, and we discuss with them “Did you wear it all day? Did you wear it just for a 20 minute trip to the store?” etc. It helps them learn to think.

Use the words and phrases you want them to use, in the way you want them to use them. If you ask our kids how they’re doing they’ll (usually) say “Doing well, thank you.”. Not “Good”, and there’s always a “Thank you” in there. I tend to prefer the word “possibility” over the word “chance”. No real reason, I just do. No-one thinks anything of it, it’s perfectly normal for a grown man to do so. But my 3 year old knew no other word for “possibility”, so when she said “If I drink too much before bed there’s a possibility I might wet the bed!” it’s the cutest thing ever.

Start teaching early. My wife started “disciplining” Molly soon after she started crawling, and by “disciplining” I mean setting boundaries and having consequences for going over them. Kids and understand “Hot!” and “No!” long before they can say it. We’d sit in the living room and just watch her crawl around, and when she started to grab the cd rack that could tip over and kill her we said “Molly, no.” She’d look at us, think for a minute and reach again, and we’d say “Molly, no”. That was all it took at the very first. As she learned that she could still do it even after we said no, a gentle tap on the back of her hand came in. Usually just two of our fingers, and not even enough to make her cry (though frustration often did) and it did the trick.

The point of the above paragraph isn’t to tell HOW you train or teach or discipline or anything like that, rather to point out that the earlier you start, the easier it is.

And now I think I’m done, I could go on forever I think. As a parent I love reading other parent’s blogs and reading how they handle things, and talking about it, and sharing ideas.


  1. Leave a comment (or email) saying, “Interview me.”
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Beware, I’m not shy of asking personal questions! Please make sure I have your email address.
  3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
  4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

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