Dan's Green Shoes

Got my green shoes on!


Skype-based Guitar lessons

At the age of 36, I decided it was finally time to check off 1 item on my bucket list, learning the guitar. Fast forward 3 years later and learning the guitar has taken a back seat to family and career. It’s difficult to fit it all in. Though a lesson is typically only 30 minutes long, when you add the drive and parking, it can easily take 1 to 2 hours.

On a whim one day, I decided to search online for Skype-based guitar lessons. I found this CNET article about Lance Allen out of Nashville. I decided to shoot Lance an email and low and behold, we set up a 30 minute session once a week. The price for 30 minutes was exactly the same as the previous face to face lessons.

The day of the first lesson, I actually forgot. Fortunately, my calendar was set to remind me 5 minutes before the lesson. The beauty of Skype-based lessons is that I was able to quickly grab my guitar, point my face toward my camera on my laptop and wait for Lance to call me. Lance was very personable and the lesson went very well. The lesson only cost my day 30 minutes of time.

To my pleasant surprise, the lesson was very effective.

· Lance was able to tell my guitar was out of tune.

· During the lesson, Lance uses Skype’s instant messages to write down instructions, tabs, notes etc. This makes it very easy to copy and paste and save for later.

· Price is comparable to face to face lessons.

· The camera is able to work around personal space issues. Lance can point the camera to various angles that really enhance the learning experience.

I highly recommend giving Skype-based guitar lessons a try.



Can DNA testing reveal my true surname?

I have been using  www.ancestry.com to build up my family tree.  The experience has been fun and interesting to say the least.  For example, my research suggests that my surname should NOT be Hickman.

Allow me to explain….


My father is Donal Ray Hickman, whose father is Dolon Hickmon.   Dolon’s mother was Thetis Brumley.  Though the picture above shows James as the father of Dolon, I don’t believe this is correct.  Check this timeline out:


Thetis had my grandfather Dolon in 1920.  Thetis was married to James in 1922.  Thetis and James had a son named James Junior a year later in 1923.    I think it is weird to name your second child “Junior”.

My grandfather Dolon lists Oklahoma as his birth place, though all my family is from Tennessee.  I shared this with my father to which he basically said I was out of my mind.  Couple of weeks later, my dad and mom called me.  My dad (Donal) remembers his Dad’s (Dolon) brother James Junior referring to Dolan as his “half brother”.   He never really gave it much thought until now.

My folks made some calls and the rumor is that Thetis was working as a servant to a doctor in Tennessee who might have gotten Thetis pregnant.  Out of embarrassment, the family moved Thetis to Oklahoma to have Dolon and then 2 years later moved back to Tennessee where she met and married James Hickman.   To keep things socially acceptable, they just gave Dolon the Hickman surname.

I do not have Dolon Clyde Hickmon birth certificate.  I tried to get it from Oklahoma but was denied due to lack of supporting information.   I do have Dolon’s Army papers where he listed Oklahoma as his birth place.  I am stuck.  It really bothers me that my surname of Hickman might not be correct.  It changes everything yet nothing at all.  I requested a quote from professional genealogists and boy was it expensive with no guarantee.  I turned it down.

I love technology, science and big data.  DNA testing definitely fascinates me.  Ancestry.com invited me to beta their new DNA service.  I ordered and received the kit, spit in a tube and mailed it back.  Waiting on the results was very similar to waiting on receiving a new gadget.  Weird, but waiting can be fun.  I now have my results but I am not yet ready to share.  Promise to be back soon.

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ProModel Skunk Works

Its 2013.  One of the exciting things I am involved with actually started in late 2012.  I sent the following email out to the development team in November.

ProModel Skunk Works…

Dear Technology Team,

Next year is the 25th anniversary of ProModel. The marketing team has started having some discussions about things we could do to promote this milestone for ProModel. I have an idea I would like to share and get your feedback.

At the last conference, we had booths set up.  The sales team and product managers manned the booth, but many developers were relaxing at the tables socializing mostly amongst other developers.  I don’t blame you really since you don’t get to exercise your sales and networking muscles very much.

ProModel is loaded with intelligent, passionate, well-spoken developers and I want the customers to witness this.

The last 2 years I have attended the Maker Faire.  What an amazing event.  For those that have never attended one, I highly recommend it.  Basically, garage inventors showcase their creations.  Talking with the inventors is very reminiscent of internal meetings where ProModel developers show off their software. You can feel the passion and excitement and it is contagious. It’s social and fun.

Might be wishful thinking, but I can imagine the technology group having their own booth at the next conference.  Let’s call this the Skunk Works booth. At this booth there might be prototypes of products that might not EVER get released.  These are concepts and prototypes. Preferably there is a simulation component to the prototype, but does not necessarily have to be. I believe that there is a developer that has an idea that can be showcased that might change the future of ProModel and their career path.

What value would the Skunk Works booth have you ask?

1. Show off our developers’ intelligence and passion for technology.

2. Show off ProModel’s creativity and technology range.

3. Depending on what we showcase, generate some feedback and dialog.  Customer engagement is a good thing.

4. We blog about the progress and process to help hype the conference.

If you have read this far, then perhaps you are interested.  I think there are some good buzz words that we should target.  To get your creative juices flowing, here is a brain dump but I am really looking for your ideas:

… Mobile/Tablet

o Conference Mobile App (Schedule, Sessions, etc)

o Mobile prototype of the world’s most simple DES tool.

o Mobile prototype of EPS or PM Cloud scenario runner

o Mobile prototype of EPS or PM Cloud reports

o IPAD example

… Physical computing

o Lego + Arduino mock manufacturing process integrated with .NET simulation engine

o Kegerator (sales guys would love this)

… Social Utilities

o Gamification Service integrated against PM Cloud or EPS.

o Product User Feature Voting Utility. (similar to Silverlight’s home page)

o Any cool ideas of how we could apply simulation to Facebook or twitter data?

… Engine Integration Examples

o BPM simulation example.

o Any cool ideas of how we could apply simulation to Facebook or twitter data?

… Gaming

o AST resource management game.  Jon I know has ideas!

… Misc

o ProModel Foosball app.  (rent a foosball table next to booth). This would be a huge success!

Here is the rub:  We would have to allocate personal time to pull this off.  If there is interest, I am proposing picking a day to optionally stay after work every 2 weeks or so, meet in the North office (and Utah in theirs) or meet online (Google Groups, etc) and work on some stuff together for fun.  Hang out, code, learn and socialize.  Would this be something you would be interested in doing?  If yes, reply.  Got a cool idea?  Reply back! Want to lead an effort? Reply back!


1. Do you have management approval for this?

Yes!  Keith loves the idea and volunteered to pay expenses for after-hours commitment.

2. Would I get a fat raise for participating?

Nope, but participating entitles you to enjoy the inside jokes.

3. Would there be deadlines?  Any obligation?


The response was great.  We formed 2 teams.  The team I am involved with is messing around with Arduino/Netduino and other Internet of Things.  Things are just starting to pick up.  I suck at EE related stuff but fortunately several of my teammates do not Smile.  We have decided to meet during lunch time once every other week or so.  The next meeting planned is called “Netduino Demo” followed by “EE For Nonbelievers”.  I will be sure to share how those go.

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Database(s) used by the big boys

You ever wondered what database the big boys use?  Yeah, me too.  Below you will find a table listing what I “think” they are based upon internet research (forums, job listings, etc).  This list might be incorrect and if so I apologize.

Application/Website Database1 Database2
Twitter MySQL Cassandra
YouTube BigTable MySQL
MySpace MS SQL Server  
Wikipedia MySQL  
Facebook.com Hive Cassandra
LinkedIn Oracle MySQL
Digg.com MySQL MemcacheDB 
StackOverflow.com MS SQL Server  
Microsoft.com MS SQL Server  
Yahoo.com PostgreSQL  
Flickr MySQL  
Google BigTable  
PlentyOfFish.com MS SQL Server  
Friendster MySQL  
ESPN Oracle  
Amazon Oracle SimpleDB
Ancestry.com Hive MySQL