Monday Apr 25, 2011

Art for Autism: Part II

A great new chapter in the story about how my daughter Bellamy is helping other families affected by Autism through her art work. Last year her painting went quickly during a silent auction to Mötley Crüe's front man Vince Neil at the annual Autism's Angels Gala put on by F.E.A.T.  This year Bellamy's painting was to go during the live auction.  We were extremely excited for this, and unlike last year, we actually were lucky enough have been graciously donated tickets to this years event.  We even got to ride in a stretch Hummer limo. Less than an hour before, I was coaching FC Lucky Charms for their 4:30 PM game that occurred in 90F temps.  Needless to say I was a bit rushed, and I don't think I stopped sweating until about midnight.  But that didn't stop my Charm from running out to give Mommy and Daddy a hug. :)

Once we got to the benefit and the artwork was taken backstage for the live auction, something very cool happened.  The very same Patron of the Arts, Vince Neil, was also in attendance and while wandering around, he saw Bellamy's painting back stage.  He told the F.E.A.T. people that the painting would "match nicely with the one he bought last year", and he wanted to know "what it would take" for her painting not to go on auction and allow him to purchase it.

The folks at F.E.A.T. told him to make them an interesting offer.  A bit later in the evening, but before the live auction started, the F.E.A.T. Fund-raising Chairperson stopped by our table and told us that Bellamy's painting would not be on live auction because Vince made her an offer she couldn't refuse. Honestly we were a bit disappointed that her painting wouldn't be auctioned live, but we were definitely excited to find out what this "offer" was. 

On with the live auction.  First item up for bid was from Vince Neil, a guitar that would be signed by all of Mötley Crüe, and included 5 backstage passes to an upcoming concert at the Red Rock Casino and Resort. That package sold for $3k. 

Turns out in order to ensure Vince would be the owner of Bellamy's second masterpiece, and her entire collection (except for two exclusive pieces for family members), he offered up an identical package and then some.  Right after the first Guitar sold, he got up on stage and announced the new package + matching donation. Unlike the first auction, Vince did the auctioning himself.  He stipulated the bidding would have to start at $5k and if someone bought the second package for $5k, he would make a $5k donation.  As you can imagine, the generated both applause and excitement, and the second package quickly sold for $7,500.  It turned out that part of the "deal" also included that he would also match the what the first guitar sold for.  To top it off, Vince Neil also paid $500 for Bellamy's painting, which was twice the amount that bought her first painting for.

All told, Bellamy's painting + Vince Neil's generosity help raise over $16,000 for families affected by Autism in Southern Nevada.  Oh, and we got a picture this year with Bella's Patron.  ;)

Wednesday Jun 30, 2010

Football/Futbol/Soccer: Replays and The USA being a world power

Way off topic here, but I'm going through a bit of soccer/football withdrawal today. 

Once every four years, the benefit of working from home is nothing short of awesome.  I'm talking about the World Cup here, so if you have no interest in footie/soccer, click away now.   Side note, sorry about the background noise of the vuvuzelas during concalls the past few weeks.

Back to the topic at hand, during first day of the two day World Cup break until the quarterfinals all the sports shows are talking about two things: 1) Replay.  The US media has been covering this since the second round of group play but seemingly not important to the rest of the world (A British friend sent me a snarky reply via twitter that read "welcome to football") until it affected England and Mexico.   2) Why the US will never be a dominant world soccer power.

#1 is easy to solve. Goal line technology (like the line technology used at Wimbledon) and an automatic review of any goal called back due to off-sides. For other game changing calls like serious bookings ( red cards or a second yellow that results in playing a man down or missing the next match), questionable handballs in scoring position (Google "The Hand of God" and "The Hand of Frog") not called but seen by all, and off-sides not being called, simply give the coaches two challenges just like the NFL. If they lose the challenge they lose a sub. It won't slow down the game because in almost all those scenarios the ref has to stop play to calm people down or the insane (but oh so prevalent practice of) diving and the resulting medics coming out with the "magic spray" causes more delays than any professional game that has replay (American throwball, basketball, and now even baseball).   The referees don't even need to jog over to the sidelines and put their head under a hooded viewing screen like the silliness we see in the NFL.  The referees on the pitch already have a communications device in their ear for the line judges, just include one up in the the press box for a ref that can make the call off of the the billion camera angles they have at the events.  Finally FIFA needs to make the post game review of serious bookings (again, a direct red or a second yellow) an easier process and regularly dismiss cards if they were a result of diving or even accidental ball to hand vs a blatant hand to ball.  In contrast, the NFL reviews every single game for dirty play and whether a penalty was called or not, players who take cheap shots or play dirty are fined fairly large sums of money on a weekly basis. 

Now to the purists or those who say it wouldn't have changed the game because they lost anyways or what ever reason, perhaps you are right.  While I'm a huge fan of Die DFB-Elf  (grandparents came over from Germany) a 2-2 tie at the half is very different than a 2-1 deficit.  Especially when every single person in the world, save for the two that mattered and get paid to watch these things, saw that England's Lampard was robbed of a goal.  From a strategy standpoint, I feel England would have never pushed up that far in basically what should have been a nil-nil scenario that allowed those last two goals coming from counter attacks by Germany.  And I'm not saying Germany wasn't the better team (but I will say England played some of the most uninspired football I've ever seen), but that call changed the whole dynamic of the game.  On to the debacle between Mexico and Argentina.  For Mexico, the blatant off-sides goal caused the players to fume and lose concentration. The Mexicans I know and work with are a proud people that are extremely passionate for a lot of things, not the least of which is football.  Many fans felt this was the first time since the 1986 World Cup that Mexico could make it to the quarterfinals (unlike the US, they've gotten to the round of 16 five times in a row!), so the pressure was immense and the hopes were high (at least anecdotal data from my friends from Mexico on FaceBook suggests this).  The rumored taunting and gloating from Argentina on the pitch nearly resulted in a brawl on the sidelines at the half shows how much is on the line and how easy it is to lose your composure over a bad call.  And we've seen how good the Argentine side can be at provoking others, just look back to the on field fight after the 2006 World Cup when Germany knocked out Argentina on a shoot-out or watch any Diego Maradona's press interview from this world cup, especially those that focus on the rekindled feud with the legendary Pelé.   Perhaps seeing how the Mexican side reacted to the bad call, the taunting became part of their  game plan to keep the Mexico squad off their game?  Finally, for the USA, bad call after bad call was mentally exhausting and it showed in the round of 16.  On the physically exhausting side, they had to score extra "legitimate" goals just to get a draw.  This forced them into a win or go home scenario in the final round of group play in a game that should not have mattered.  The US should have been able to play their "B" team and give their starters more time to rest like Brazil did against Portugal in group play.  Instead they had to ride a rollercoaster of effort and emotions that would drain even the best squads out there.  I won't spend too much time on the scheduling decisions that resulted the what seemed to be shortest rest period ever before the round of 16 for a group winner or why the group B winner got more rest time before the knock out round.  Luck of the draw there.  Sure, Ghana had the same rest and absolutely proved their fitness level to be superior, but they weren't subjected to the drama, horrible calls and the resulting media attention associated with Group C.  While it's nice that FIFA president Sepp Blatter has apologized to England and Mexico, where are the apologies to the US side? Why did we see Koman Coulibaly as a side judge in a match not two days later, with still no explanation from FIFA on the disallowed goals and phantom calls?  I'm really not trying to sound like a complainer here and I could list a dozen other mistakes (Insane red cards on Kaká and Klose come to mind).  I do feel using the replay/challenge system, most, if not all, of this could have been avoided.  Would the outcomes have changed?  Who knows.  But at the very least the eventual outcomes would have solely decided by the players skill and desire to move on.

#2 One only needs to look at the US Women's national team to see that is a load of caca (or is it?). Since the beginning of ranking women's teams there have only ever been two teams ranked number one in FIFA's rankings for women's soccer, the US - The Yanks - and Germany - Die Nationalelf -  ( Girls start young and continue, most likely because their only other options are softball and basketball (nothing against those sports). Boys start young and the parents (most likely non-soccer loving fathers) pull them to play "real sports". Nothing kills me more than to see good young male athletes in flag football leagues...It's nothing like the real game and does not prepare them for real tackle football.  Again, nothing to take away from that sport, but if your son excelled at soccer and you think it's not a real are in need of a reality check.  Go out an try to play a match, running across the pitch for 90 minutes and then come back and tell me it's not one of the most physically demanding sports out there.  Oh and for those that say soccer isn't a contact sport?  Get back to me on that one once you've played.

The other popular argument I've heard to get the US more powerful is to get foreign players to immigrate. I'm probably wrong here, but just a bit of research show all of the US Women's National team players were born in the USA. So none of this nonsense about immigrants are our only chance (though those with defending skills are more than welcome!!!).  There's no doubt that we have great athletes in the USA.  Have you even seen Kobe or Steve Nash play soccer? .  OK, OK, Nash is a Canadian born in South Africa from British parents but it was the only soccer video footage I could find of some one playing a "real sport" as defined by Americans.  Besides, Canada is a country that has had what, one appearance in the World Cup in 1986? They can blame the NHL for stealing all their good athletes. :)  But I digress, the real point I'm trying to make here about the women's side is that there is pool of of very talented US athletes capable of competing in soccer at the very highest level.  Imagine if it was just as natural for LeBron James' parents to have put a soccer ball at his feet instead of a basketball in his hands.  Sadly it's not natural, because there's very little incentive for our best athletes to play soccer. 

This is the only argument that I buy and it's a problem I don't know how to solve.  Professional soccer in the US from a pay scale standpoint is a joke compared to other sports.  Besides the few superstars (most from other countries), the players with families could easily need a second job to live above the poverty line.  Minimum MLS salary is $40K a year (and a lot of them make that) with $88K being the median salary, compare that to the NBA that has a minimum salary of over $230K.  Even Landon Donovan's $2 million a year pales in comparison to players of his caliber in other sports.  Let's just say we won't be seeing many US MLS players on MTV Cribs.  Top that off with a totally backwards (at least compared the the rest of the world) funding model for soccer.  We in America marveled when we read about Manchester United signing a 9 year old to their developmental squad.  And therein lies one of biggest differences surrounding soccer in the US and the rest of the world and our second biggest problem next to financial incentive.  In the rest of the world up and coming talent is recognized and their development is paid for by national, club teams, and sometimes wealthy benefactors (read up on Messi's and Ronaldo's stories) often at a very young age with no cost to (and in some cases financially rewarding to) the families.  In the US, the financial burden of developing talented players falls squarely on the player and their family. 

Unfortunately in the US, youth soccer at competitive levels, is on the border line of becoming an elitist sport along the lines of golf.  Sure, there are plenty of recreational leagues that are affordable, but for the truly talented kids, recreational soccer leagues (often coached by a parent who never played competitive soccer <cough, cough>) aren't what they need.  They need access to the coaches that can take them to the next level which means they need to join a competitive club.  Sadly, many cannot afford this route as club dues, coaching fees, tournament costs, club kit, etc add up quickly ($2000 a season is not atypical).  A set of top of the line Titleist golf clubs for your 10 year old looks like a bargain after a few seasons.  Yes, there are certain demographics, primarily the Latino communities, that run clubs for fraction of what others charge.  While the talent level can be very high in these leagues and the coaching experience great, many times these clubs can't afford to pay to join a "sanctioned" league, let alone pay for tournaments.  (But if they do and your upper-middle class club team comes up against one in a tournament, watch out!) Seriously though, without  joining a sanctioned league and playing in tournaments, these teams with very talented players don't get to participate in in the national ranking system that begins at age 10.  And a club that is not ranked will find it hard to get their players recognized enough to generate interest in those at the next level.  Even if they do, moving to the next level costs even more money.  I believe the US is only country in the world that makes players pay to try out for the Olympic development squads.  Tryout fees vary from state to state (probably part of the problem is having it ran at the State level), but plan on a few hundred dollars more a year just to make the development squad, far more if you travel with them.  For most players in the US, the only incentive to stick with soccer is a scholarship to college.  While a free college education is nothing to sneeze at, the simple truth is that the largest number of scholarships available go to sports other than soccer.

There are a few other problems, but these are easy to fix such as defining a standard format of play. Some leagues start at 8v8 or even 11v11 for four year old players.  How can a four year old player develop any skills in that format?  It becomes a giant frustrating game of kick ball and a field of swarming kids.  All US soccer leagues should start at 3v3 from U5 and add players and positions every two years.  If a kid never gets to touch the ball in a game, let alone score a goal, how will they learn to love the game?  If you are interested in getting your youngster in soccer,  find a program that follows the United States Soccer Federation Recommended Game Formats for Youth Development.

So maybe we'll never be a dominating world soccer power, but I know we can get better.  In fact on the world stage, I feel we have gotten much better.  And I know we can make the sport more popular.  That starts with getting more of our kids involved in soccer/football/futbol/fußball and keeping them there if they like it. It's quite simply the best sport ever.
  Think of the money we can save and put towards their education if we stop buying all those toy baseball mitts and Yankees jerseys (Angels, Mariners, or Red Sox jerseys are fine though) or those Little Tikes basketball hoops with a foam ball and get kids an age appropriate soccer ball. :) All kidding aside, if they express an interest, let them "play ball in the house" and always have a ball at their feet.  You never know and you just might be surprised that you have the next World Cup superstar for the US side in your family and at the very least you'll be helping combat the rampant obesity problem with our kids.

Thursday May 13, 2010

Art for Autism

My sister in law (Angel), who serves on the board of Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT), had a great idea for their annual fund raising event "Autism Angels Gala".  Proceeds from this annual event go to benefit families affected by and living with autism by providing a variety of services, education, and most importantly advocacy for dealing with everyone and everything (especially things like school district IEP's).   Angel's idea was to have Bellamy paint a picture and put it up for auction at the event.  She brought over a large canvas, some paint and over several nights we let Bellamy paint.

One destroyed kitchen table later and we had a masterpiece. ;)

Now the special part of the story is who the high bidder was.  It was Vince Neil, front man of the legendary rock band Mötley Crüe

It's not that Vince is a celebrity, or that his band provided much of the soundtrack to people like me who grew up in the 80's that makes the story.  It's the fact that he was touched seeing Bellamy's Story (a photo and bio accompanied the painting).  And for her story to touch someone who lost his own daughter to cancer in 1995,  well, that's what makes this story extra special to me. 

Wednesday Apr 28, 2010

Where Eagles Dare

My brother who works for Boeing sent me this great picture of an eagle perched on the vertical fin of their 2nd P8-A Poseidon (anti-submarine aircraft).  It was taken at Boeing Field by one of the inspectors assigned to the airplane.

Wednesday Mar 31, 2010

Introducing the Oracle Sun Ray 3 Plus

Please welcome the first member of the 3rd generation of Sun Ray clients, the Oracle Sun Ray 3 Plus

Check out the data sheet.  More to come!

Friday Jan 29, 2010

I remember...

As a 29 year old in the fall of 1999,  I was recruited by tech juggernaut and dot com sweetheart Sun Microsystems to come aboard in their Professional Services division focusing on PC NetLink (remember that!!??) and interoperability.  When I officially started in January of 2000 (I had to make sure the Y2K bug didn't bite Bellagio!) "Interoperablity" meant a totally different thing to Sun at the time.  To me, and the team I joined, it meant making Sun hardware work in a Microsoft environment.  Unix and SPARC in a MS Domain?  Impossible?  Nope.  We were wildly successful for PS, a small team raking in millions in billable hours.

Eventually that led me to working with the Sun Ray product and doing the sacrilegious thing of displaying full screen MS Windows on a Sun Ray without ever interacting with Solaris from a user perspective.  That eventually led to a job with Sun Ray Engineering where I've spent (thus far) the best years of my life.  Three of my five daughters were born under the SUNW stock ticker.  10 years, my second job out of college, friends that I consider some of the best I've ever had.

I could dedicate a whole blog entry to the "second half" of my tenure at Sun, where I got involved with Social Media.  I owe a lot to the Blogs.Sun.Com  team, without their vision I wouldn't know half of the people that I know around the world today.  Thin Guy became synonymous with Sun Ray.  (Could you believe I was going to first use "Tall Guy"?).  Talk about social media building a brand.  I'm now introduced as "Thin Guy" rather than my given name of Craig Bender.  There are so many to thank, Linda Skrocki, Rama Roberts, and of course the very early blogging queen Mary Smaragdis (Not to brag, but I was her new favorite blogger once...that was a huge deal).  And the friends I made on those teams...too many to list.  Liz Ditucci, Dave Arguelles, and so many others.  I feel like I know them all personally even though I've only met one of them in real life.

If you're worried about me, don't be.  I'm continuing on at Oracle and more importantly so are the Sun Ray, SGD, VDI, and VirtualBox products.  The blogging policy is a wee bit different at Oracle, so my blog posts will be "on topic" for my job.  I'm contemplating moving the personal topics (recipes, workouts, autism, general humor) to a new non-work related blog, but all the technical posts will continue to live over at Think Thin.

I have so many great memories of Sun.  My colleagues made Sun what it was.  The technology was a side effect of the freedom given to extremely talented people and the eye for hiring exceptional talent.  We may have lacked at execution on bringing the stuff to market, but Sun was an innovator.  Note to hiring companies, if someone has a couple of years at SUNW/JAVA on their resume, that's all you need to know.  They're a keeper.  One last thing about my time at Sun...I used to travel a lot (150K+ airmiles a year).  I saw the world and it was beautiful.  But when my youngest was diagnosed with autism, the travel was becoming harder on our family and had to be reduced and that was OK with Sun.  Their work from home program was not only saving both employees and the company money, the environment, it might also have "saved" a little girl as well.  While I won't say she's recovered, she's a totally different kid because Sun's policies allowed me to be there for her.  For that I am eternally grateful.

With that I bid this "S-Word" blog goodbye.   Catch me on Think Thin and speaking at Oracle events near you.  Thank you so much for your readership.  Let's see if Thin Guy can be synonymous with Oracle VDI.  I know my new boss is finally getting the N|C he always wanted.  GO ORACLE!

Monday Aug 17, 2009

The Little Sun Ray That Cloud

Yes, cloud.  Not a typo.  What do you get when you combine a low cost netbook and the upcoming Sun Desktop Access Client?  You get a ton of computing power in a very small form factor that can go anywhere accessing powerful servers and Windows, Linux, and OpenSolaris VM's safely in your data center or cloud.  How's that for VDI in the clouds?

(WiiMote shown for scale)

Friday Apr 24, 2009

Sun VDI 3 = Choice

Here's a quick video I made showing the different supported OS choices available only with Sun VDI 3.  I mention "supported" because you can make any OS VirtualBox supports into a VDI solution, but we officially support XP, Vista, Win2KPro, Ubuntu, and OpenSolaris.  "Supported" means you can place a service call if something is not operating as advertised.  Note the "Full PC" experience of the boot and shut down for each OS.   I'll be cleaning this up a bit by making it shorter and adding some tunes (server was right next to me while filming so I removed the original audio track).

Tuesday Apr 21, 2009

Not Dead Yet

Due to my blog being stale I've gotten a few inquiries as whether or not I'm still with Sun.  Since you're reading this, the answer is yes.  It's not that I don't have a lot to talk about, I just have been doing it in much shorter bursts.

I feel happy. I feel happy.

Thursday Jan 22, 2009

Apple OS X Desktop On Sun Ray

If you're tired of doing the VNC route to remotely display an apple desktop, check out AquaConnect!  AquaConnect brings an RDP Server to OS X Server.  This means you can use our Sun Ray Windows Connector to display a Leopard desktop on your Sun Ray and couple it with hot desking and stateless goodness!.  Here's a couple of shots of Sun Ray and AquaConnect from MacWorld

(Photo's courtesy of Chris Kawalek)

Wednesday Dec 17, 2008

Las Vegas Snow

Welcome to Fabulous Frozen Las Vegas!

Vegas Snowfall

Vegas Snowfall

Vegas Snowfall

And a few more from my camera phone as the weather unfolded throughout the day.

Monday Dec 08, 2008


Sometimes you think you know what beauty is.

And then sometimes you add a new definition.  

Beauty:  When at the sound of a school bell you see young mentally challenged boy dash fifty yards in an awkward gait into the waiting arms of his mother and you can feel the love in their embrace across the distance of a parking lot.

Tuesday Nov 11, 2008

Desktop Meet Up Details

We'll be meeting tonight at the Yard House about 7:30 PM.  Nothing too formal, just drinks, appetizers, and some good conversation.   The Yard House is located in the Town Square, cab drivers should know how to get there.   (Don't attempt to walk it like folks from last year as things in Vegas are farther than they appear)

View Larger Map

Thursday Oct 30, 2008

Boo! 2008

Kids have school off tomorrow for Nevada Day, so today was costume day.  No face makeup allowed according to the school district though, so not as fun as they will be tomorrow.  I prefer cute to scary anyways.

Here's Laney as a Scary Fairy

Scary Fairy

Mags as a Ghost Bride

Ghost Bride

Cami as a Pretty Witch

Pretty WItch

And Bellamy as her favorite thing in the whole world.  A strawberry!



Cami and Bell

Tuesday Oct 28, 2008

Desktop Dinner II

We are planning another desktop dinner during CEC.  If you are coming to CEC and are a desktop person (or a fan of Sun Ray, SGD, Sun VDI, or this blog), leave me a comment or send me some mail (  I'll post the location and final time and date when we get final word.  We are trying to narrow it down to Monday or Tuesday night.  Looking forward to see my virtual desktop friends once again from across the globe.  #goodtimes

Friday Oct 17, 2008

Election 2008. Relax.

This has been a heated election.  Both the right and left, including their respective media outlets of choice, have done their best to get the average voter spun up, angry even.  Inspiring people is good, making them get angry is bad.  I've found myself getting angry a lot lately, what's more I haven't made up my mind as to who I'm voting for.  Yes folks, I'm undecided. 

Today however, I learned to relax about it all.  I won't let blogs, or snarky twitter comments upset me.  Nor will I make comments that are bound to upset others (I know I have upset a few friends).  I'll do my best not to watch any political pundits on the news.  What I will watch is how much each candidate shows their humanity in the next few weeks.  And what made me relax?  This video showing both McCain and Obama and their human side.  They both made me laugh.  I think I laughed more at Obama not being able to keep a straight face after his jokes than anything else.  But again, most importantly it reminded me that 1) these two are human and 2) they are proud Americans.

Sure they had (extremely talented and funny) speech writers, but I do hope they meant every word.  I do believe that every little thing is gonna be alright.

Tuesday Oct 14, 2008

Sun Ray Software 4 10/08 - Released!

More details and download links over on the Think Thin Blog.

Saturday Oct 04, 2008

Green Enterprise Trifecta


Thanks to my friends at Dataman for capturing this pic at a recent tradeshow.

Wednesday Sep 24, 2008

First Day of School for Bellamy

First Day Of School!

Bellamy starts school today, a little more than a week after she turned 3 years old.  This is a picture of me saying goodbye as we have a bit (read "a lot") of separation anxiety even when I leave the room, so we felt it best for Mom to take her alone.   Bellamy is entering the program for kids with Autism in the Clark County School District.  She'll be going from 9 AM until 3 PM, 5 days a week.  My wife talked to the mother of a child that went through the program and now he's a "typical" kid (by standardized tests) that is actually in my 7 year old daughters class.  You'd never guess that when he started the program he was diagnosed with Autism and had zero speech.  We will also continue with the private occupational, behavioral, and speech therapies that we've been doing since about March.  She's going to be one busy 3 year old.

We are hopeful, excited, and scared all at the same time.  We've seen great progress over the last 6 month, and can't wait to see how she will grow.  Maybe in a couple years you'll be reading this blog and the topic will be about coaching her soccer team and how she scored her first goal.  Fingers crossed!

Monday Sep 15, 2008

VMWorld Booth 1108

That's were you'll find me if you happen to be attending VMWorld.  I'm easy to spot as I think only Joost is taller than me, and I've got far more hair.  Sure, it's receding, but it's still there.  Mostly.

My name is Craig Bender aka ThinGuy. I'm a Principal Software Developer for Oracle's Virtual Desktop Engineering group.

I architect and evangelize the use of Oracle's Desktop technology including Sun Ray, Secure Global Desktop, and Oracle VDI.


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