All about your's truly

My truck:

I was born at the Texas County Hospital in Houston, MO, USA, on June 26, 1972. I lived in Houston until college. Since leaving Rolla, I've been in central Illinois.

I went to UMR when I graduated from high school in 1990, and I graduated with my BS in Nuclear Engineering in May 1995. I received my MS from UMR in Computer Science in August of 1998. Click here to see my MS diploma. I then taught for a year at UMR while pretending to work on another degree (I had completed all of the coursework for an MS in Nuclear Engineering). Then, I started working at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Houston the town
Houston is located about 150 miles (240 km) southwest of St. Louis (or, 48 miles (77 km) south of Rolla). See map. It has about 2,500 people living in it, and is pretty well set up, for a town that small. We had our own Wal-Mart, and a pretty sizeable number of eateries (something >10). The local hangout was Sonic, and the primary place that people went to actually sit down and eat was probably Pizza Express.

School in Houston was pretty decent, I suppose. I didn't get the math background that I needed for Rolla, but I can't really complain. A smaller school system only has so many teachers to go around. My graduating class had around 95 people in it and I graduated as valedictorian. I never was real active in sports (worked too much), but I gave football a try one year, and it didn't appeal to me all that much. Football is definitely the main sport around Houston. Basketball would be a distant second, and baseball is almost nonexistent (don't let the baseball players hear me say that).

I mentioned that I had worked too much to be actively involved in sports, and I really did work quite a bit. Started my freshman year in high school I started working Saturdays at the local county library. Then, the last weekend of my freshman year I started washing dishes at the Pizza Express on Friday and Saturday nights. Over the summer (all the high school summers, in fact) I worked my 40 hours at the library, and I worked nights at Pizza Express. Starting in the fall of my sophomore year, the owner of Pizza Express opened up a chicken joint: Chester's Fried Chicken. So, I moved from washing dishes to being a fry-cook at Chester's. The work at the library continued as before. Being a cook allowed me to work nights through the week, rather than just on Friday and Saturday night. Then, in November of my junior year, a new Pizza Express was opened at a new location, and I started cooking pizzas at Pizza Express. I still worked at the library on Saturdays, and I worked at Chester's and Pizza Express during the nights. I stayed at all three places until August 1990, when I left for Rolla.

During my summers, I never managed to actually go the entire summer working. Before my sophomore year, I went to Church camp for a week. Before my junior year, I went to MSA (Missouri Scholar's Academy) for three weeks. (Boomba Hey! 1988 was the year that Mark Scharenbroich (I always thought it was Mark Sharenbrock) started with MSA. If you are an MSA'r, you'll know what I'm talking about). Before my senior year, I spent a week at a conservation honor's program at UM-C, and I spent a week in Washington, DC, with the Rural Electric Youth Tour, sponsored by my electric company.

Before I ever went to Rolla, I knew that I wanted to co-op while there. Co-oping is a program where you alternate semesters between school and work. This way, you get practical work experience before you actually get out into the real world. They (everyone that talked about it) highly recommended it, and it seemed like a good thing to do. So, during my freshman year, I carefully watched our school newspaper for listings of companies wanted Nuclear Engineering co-ops. There weren't very many of them. Two, to be precise. One wanted only juniors, but the other one (Tennessee Valley Authority) didn't specify a grade level, so I figured I'd give it a try. I sent off the application, and, amazingly enough, I got hired! So, the summer after my freshman year I started working for TVA. For my first summer, I worked in 'Corporate Projects' in the downtown-Chattanooga office. I spent most of the summer working on a $50 million computer upgrade project for Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. I mostly did computer work, and things of that nature. I didn't really know enough Nuclear Engineering yet to do much of that. I did have very good supervisors, though, and I learned quite a bit. For part of the summer, I helped kick off a new project that we were trying to get funding for: the EOPTS. EOPTS (Emergency Operating Procedures Tracking System) allows the computer to do the tedious lookup up procedures that previously required the operators to follow actions on multiple flowcharts (often having to trace multiple incidents at the same time). This had been done in Kousheng Taiwan and TVA/EPRI were wanting to do it in the US. So, I helped (in extremely minor, long forgotten ways) to get that project started.
Work in Corporate Projects was interesting, but I wanted to see what life was like at an actual Nuclear plant. So, the next summer I asked to work at one of the plants, Bellefonte, (also known as BLN) that was still being built. Well, BLN didn't need any co-ops, so I got sent to Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. I ended up co-oping for four terms at WBN. The group that I worked with at WBN was involved in accident analysis. We hypothesized problems, and then showed that the design of the plant was sufficient to contain these problems. One of the big projects that I worked on was postulating pipes breaking, and the ensuing flooding, in the rooms of the plant. It had to be shown that important components would be safe. And, if they wouldn't be safe, the design of the plant would have to change to accomodate.
The last semester that I was there started out with a restructuring of priorities at WBN. We were hoping to have fuel load before too long, and so the management reorganized everyone in an effort to achieve this in a more efficient manner. The new group that I became part of was the Design Baseline Verification Program. We had the responsibility of making sure that the plant's (at least engineering's) papers were in order. We had to make sure that all the necessary calculations were done, and that any outstanding design issues had been taken care of.

my graduate assistantship

Between the fall semester of 1995 and summer semester of 1998 I worked for the Computer Science department at UMR as a graduate teaching assistant. For the fall semester 1995, I taught three sections of CS77 (Fortran lab). For Spring 96, I taught a single section of CS77 and graded for CS74 (the Fortran lecture).

I can truly say that I enjoyed teaching at the beginning. My first semester it took MUCH more time than I was anticipating that it would (I would say that I probably averaged 35 hours or so per week for my 20 hour pay). But, having said that, I found it very enjoyable, and I really liked seeing the "lightbulb click on" on my student's faces when I explained something to them and they had that "ah-ha" experience.

For the fall semester 1996, I taught a section of C++ for the beginning computer science majors (and anyone else that wanted to take it). It was very interesting, and quite fun. It took a lot of time, but I really think that my students learned the material, and that was my main goal.

For spring 1997, I taught CS 74. CS 74 is a lecture class that has an associated lab class, CS 78. CS 74 meets twice a week, and it went quite well. CS74 can be described as C++ for non Computer Scientists, and I think that this class was definitely the wave of the future. The traditional engineering computer language, Fortran, was losing popularity, and it was important that there were technical people going into the work force who were competent in the language of choice: C++.

For summer 1997, I taught CS 053, CS 074, and CS 078.

For fall 1997, and spring 1998, I taught CS 74.

For summer 1998, I taught CS 053, CS 074, and CS 078.

In Fall 1998, I took a teaching fellow position at UMR. For Fall 1998 and Spring 1999 I taught CS 74 and CS 78.

During the Spring semester of 1999, I heard about a job offering in the Theoretical Biophysics group at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois - Urbana, Champaign. The job sounded interesting, and I was ready for a break from teaching for a little while. Teaching was somewhat enjoyable, but even in the brief time I had spent teaching I had noticed a difference in the students. As time progressed, students seemed to expect more and more "for free". I loved teaching kids who wanted to learn, but it seemed as though there were fewer and fewer of those kids, and more and more of the kids that were taking the class merely because they had to. So I applied and got the job at UIUC. I have been working there since June 1999. My official web pages are located here.

the truck

The date: August 22, 1989. The mission: Go to Springfield, Missouri (the closest major town around) and goof off. While there, visit Douglas Toyota (which no longer exists.. I think it is now called Republic Toyota), and take a look at their trucks. In 1983, Terry, my brother, bought a Toyota truck. I loved it! In 1986, my brother, Gordon, bought a Toyota truck. I loved it! In 1987, my brother, Larry, bought a Toyota truck. I loved it! Ever since I started working my freshman year of high school, I had been saving for a Toyota truck.

So, on the way up to Springfield, Dad and myself stopped in at the bank just in case we saw something that we couldn't live without. The bank said that we could have the money if we needed it, so we were off to Springfield. It was pretty early in the morning, because I had to work at Chester's that night. It was a Tuesday, and school started (my senior year!) on Thursday. We got to Douglas, and we were browsing around, and we test drove a navy blue toyota, but it didn't really do that much for me. Then, I saw my truck! Gee, it was beautiful (and still is, as far as I'm concerned). Needless to say, I was stricken by its charm, and fell head-over-heels in love with it. Then, I found myself signing papers on it. We traded in the 1981 Chevy Citation that I had been driving for two years, and I (the bank, rather) was the proud owner of a 1989 Toyota 4x4 standard cab with 21.4 miles on it. So, I drove it home, got to work late, and then, reality started setting in. "How am I ever going to pay for this!?!?" and thoughts of that nature kept cropping up. I had worked really hard in high school so that I could get scholarships for college, but this went far beyond just paying for college. This was an additional large monthly payment plus insurance! Well, these were the thoughts I was having that night while I cooked chicken.

Needless to say, things have turned out all right. I now have my truck paid for; it has about (89,000 miles (142,400 km) on it as of 8/99; 139,000 miles (222,000km) on it as of 6/2005), and I don't really have any plans to get rid of it any time soon. I would love to have a Toyota 4-runner, but they are just too expensive. The truck now has a camper shell on it for functionality, but other than that, it is quite similar to the way it was when I bought it. I have treated the truck with the utmost respect (funny how paying for something makes you do that). It hasn't seen any four wheeling (much to the chagrin of some of my old friends) and it gets its oil changed every 3,000 miles (4,800 km), just like the manual suggests. I've had to do a few things to it over the years, including replacing the rear pinion seal. I have replaced the factory speakers. One of them was making rattling noises. The muffler has been replaced (several times) since it was in the process of rusting through, and in 5/97 I replaced the shocks. In 1/98 I had to get a chip in the windshield fixed. I evidently had a rock hit me in the windshield at some point. In 4/98 I had to replace the spark plug wires. I was getting moisture in the wires, and it was causing the truck to sputter from time to time. In 7/98 I replaced the rear bumper. It was starting to rust through in a couple of spots. So, I replaced it with a new Toyota brand bumper (this one has the rubber non-slip piece on the top!) In 5/99 I got the bed repainted. It had started oxidizing quite a bit right under where the camper sat (for no apparent reason). According to the guy at the paint shop, the cab was made in Japan and shipped over (it has been flawless) and the bed was done here in the US. Take that for what it is worth. Anyway, I got it repainted and it looks really good. They had to take the stripes off to paint it, and as of right now I haven't replaced them. In 08/99 I had a major problem with overheating and had to to get a new radiator and various other things engine-related. The transmission has been overhauled once, but the truck keeps on keeping on.

college life

College life was interesting. Because of the nature of Rolla, I wasn't really been involved in an excessive amount of extracurricular activities. My studies just absolutely did not allow for it. But, it was fun. During my undergraduate career I resided in the Quadrangle residence halls. For grad school I moved out and bought myself a trailer in a trailer park on the northern edge of town. It was one of the best investments that I ever made. The rent was very low, and the quality of living was good enough. Before I moved to Illinois my girlfriend and myself spent a fair amount of time fixing it up (painting, cleaning, etc) and I was able to sell it quite easily.

family life

My family life is extremely important to me. I don't get a chance to go home to Houston nearly as often as I would like, but when I do get there things are very nice. One thing that I noticed when I was in Rolla was that it always seemed to take me a while to go to sleep of a night. But, when I'm at home in Houston, I can lay down on the bed and instantly fall asleep. I attribute this to 'ultimate' security. It is a feeling of peace that can only come from being totally happy and secure.

At any rate, on with the show. My dad's grandparents moved to Missouri from the east coast (the Virginias) sometime in the early 1900s, and my dad grew up right across the branch (creek, small river) to be continued and greatly expanded. I have actually had long lost relatives contact me due to what is on this page!...

church life

Church is very important to me. My parents instilled in me the importance of such matters at an early age, and I've been attending Oak Grove Free Will Baptist Church down in Houston since I was born. I have held a number of positions in the church. I started out just taking up the collection each Sunday morning. I have been singing in the choir for a very long time. During my high school years I taught a sunday school class, and I was assistant superintendent. In Rolla, I attended the Rolla Free Will Baptist Church.

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