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User Journal

Journal Journal: New job 2

Well, I left USA Truck after 26 months there. They were okay for a while, then Jerry Orler retired. The guy they put in the CEO spot used to be the CFO - in short, he's a bean counter who has never seen the inside of a big truck.

The first thing he did was lay off all the senior mechanics at all the terminal shops. Then he did away with 3rd shift at the terminal shops altogether. The result is that if a driver wants to put his truck or a trailer in the shop, he has to make an appointment 3-5 days in advance at the terminal in question. Also, the work done takes twice as long and is almost never done right. Since the operations model at USA Truck is such that a driver never knows where he'll be 2 days from now, that basically made it impossible to get one's truck or trailer serviced or repaired.

Then they reassigned me to a different truck when the one I was in hit 480,000 miles - barely broken in for an International 9400i with Cummins ISX 435hp diesel engine and Eaton-Fuller 10-speed transmission. Their policy is to sell them off before they hit 500,000 miles, to maximize book value. When I changed trucks, there were half a dozen brand new trucks with the plastic still on the seats, prepped and ready to go, sitting on the terminal yard in Vandalia, Ohio. I spoke with another USA Truck driver on the phone who had just left the main terminal at Van Buren, Arkansas and passed through the West Memphis terminal. He said there was a total of about 30 brand new trucks, also prepped and ready to go, sitting on those yards. But the company put me into a beat-up, abused 2005 model with at least 2 DOT Out-Of-Service equipment violations (large air leak and a drive tire showing belts) and a worn-out transmission.

The truck they moved me into lasted exactly 4 days before it broke down with transmission problems. The shop said they could have it fixed in about 5 days. USA Truck policy is, if your truck is down for more than 2 days, they put you in another truck. Operations, however, told me they had "no trucks available for assignment at this time". Bullshit. USA Truck has 2600 or so trucks, and a turnover rate of over 100%. That means that on any given day, an average of 7 or 8 trucks become available as drivers quit.

Fine. I packed my stuff, rented a car, and came home. 2 days later, they found another truck for me at a dropyard in Atlanta. I had to get myself there. No problem; I've ridden a Grey Dog once before, and that's one time too many. Besides, Atlanta isn't that far away, so my wife and I loaded up the pickup truck, drove down, and she drove our pickup truck back.

When I got there, the truck was nasty on the inside. It also had at least 2 DOT Out-Of-Service violations - the #2 air gauge didn't work, and it had at least 2 separate audible air leaks, such that the compressor could barely maintain pressure at idle. It had other problems as well, and to top things off, it had a pushbutton automatic transmission that shifted like a rookie dumping the clutch in every gear, and would not upshift below 1700rpm no matter what (normally I shift around 1500rpm unless I'm pulling 45,000 pounds or so up a hill like the ones on I-81 South leaving Wilkes-Barre, PA - it saves fuel, and those Cummins engines don't make much more horsepower at 1700 than at 1200).

I cleaned the truck, moved my stuff in, got a load and headed to Saginaw, MI. I stopped at the terminal in Ohio to try to get a new #2 air gauge installed - no luck. Then I noticed that a driver was moving his stuff into one of those brand new trucks that weren't available when I was broken down 2 days earlier. I talked with him for a few minutes, and discovered that he had just completed his 4 weeks with a trainer. He'd had his CDL less than a month and they were putting him in that brand new truck. Meanwhile, they stuck a driver with 2+ years of experience and 320,000 accident-free miles (namely, me) in broken-down crap.

That night I used the terminal's wi-fi to fill out an online application with Crete Carrier Corporation, based out of Lincoln, NE. They checked my job history and references out and offered me a Southeast Regional job with a $0.02/mile raise above what I was making at USA Truck. Plus, NO NORTHEAST!!! HALLELUJAH!!!

Now I'm driving a Freightliner Century with the bigass condo sleeper and double bunks, 475hp Series 60 Detroit engine and Meritor 10-speed. It's like a Cadillac compared to the "13 Letter Shit Spreader" I drove for USA Truck. I'm always within about a day's drive of home, I'm at home every weekend or two, and I'll pretty much never see the northeast again as long as I'm in this job.

So far, so good. The only drawbacks I can see so far are shorter hauls and the fact that due to being home more often, I'm home for less time each time (6 days out, 1 day home or 12 days out, 2 days home as opposed to 24 days out, 4 days home for the national fleet). Also, since I don't leave the Southeast, my loads tend to be shorter hauls (400-600 miles instead of 800-1200 miles). That means more time sitting at the customers' docks, less time making the big wheels turn. Since truckers are paid by the mile, this means less money than if I was with the national fleet, and 1-2 days at home is just enough time to do laundry, spend an evening with the Mrs, and head back out. But I think I can deal with all that, so long as I don't ever have to see the George Washington Bridge (or the People's Republic of New Jersey, for that matter) again.

Who knows, maybe I'll end up wanting to be on the road for longer stretches at a time, then have longer stretches of home time, and transfer to the national fleet. They do have "Load-Select" dispatch on the national fleet, meaning I'd rarely be truly forced to go to the northeast, but I doubt I'd be willing to put up with having to go up north for the extra money and longer periods of home time.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Video blogging

I've been carrying my laptop with me on the road - with Streets & Trips, it allows me to reality-check directions I get from dispatch, which are frequently misleading, confusing, or just plain wrong. But apart from the occasional websurfing on the wi-fi at certain truck stops, I've gotten little use from it. Well, that's changing. I've decided to make use of a webcam I've had for years.

That's right, I'm video blogging. A little duct tape to hold the webcam on the dashboard, plus a freeware webcam app, plus Windows Movie Maker, and I'm a movie producer! Or something like that. Pay no attention to my thick North Georgia accent. I spent years carefully cultivating a lack of any accent in my speech, then started driving a truck. Since then, I've relapsed.

My videos can be found at

User Journal

Journal Journal: [Allen Zadr] Reason for friending 2

Just because. Allen seems to be a pretty nice guy, and reasonable. Like all of the people in my Friends list, he seems like someone I wouldn't mind having a beer and a political discussion with.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Turned in my amateur status today... 3

..and went pro. We did a civil ceremony at the courthouse, but the judge also happens to be an Episcopal priest. So I guess nobody can say "we're not *really* married because we got married at the courthouse."

I imagine it'll take a while to get used to the ring, and to calling Gail "my wife" instead of "my fiancee".

On a side note, I just checked my voice mail for the day because I forgot to take my phone off silent alert and left it in my jacket in the hallway. My mom and stepdad called me twice - on my wedding day - asking me when I can come work on my mom's computer. Her computer is 2 weeks old, a new Sony Vaio. My nephew tried plugging a joystick (not USB, an old school 15-pin joystick) into a computer with no joystick port, and they can't get any of his games to work on the computer.

I hate to break it to them, but I have two weekends to spend with my wife before I go out of town for two months or so for CDL training and OTR training, then I'll be gone for the next year, being home every other weekend at best. They're gonna have to wait until at least late March, probably closer to mid April, before I can go up there again. Or they can suck it up and call Sony.

I spent every weekend between Halloween and New Year's, except for Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas weekend, at their house working on their computers because my stepdad has an affinity for deleting C:\NTDETECT.COM (I tried setting him up as a limited user in XP, but he can't capture video using Adobe Premiere as anything but an administrator). I'm NOT going to go up there to make some games work in the two weekends I have to spend with my wife before I leave town for 2 months.

Time to cut this post short; I have a wedding to consummate :-)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Taco Soup Recipe


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilis
  • 1 can navy beans
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can southwestern style black beans
  • 1 can chili beans with green chiles
  • 1 can white shoe peg corn
  • 1 package powdered taco seasoning mix
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried and ground African Birdseye peppers (optional)
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • Tortilla chips (optional)

Brown ground beef, drain. Open all the cans and drain the water from all except for the chili beans. Dump the lot into a pot. Add taco seasoning mix. Add 3-4 cups of water, depending on how "soupy" you want it. Add ground African Birdseye pepper (optional). Simmer on medium heat for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with shredded cheese (optional) and your choice of tortilla chips (optional).

If you use the African Birdseye peppers, be careful with them. Wash your hands after handling them, and FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T RUB YOUR EYES AFTER HANDLING THEM!!! I got some from a guy I know who's from South Africa, and decided to try one. I bit about 1/8 of an inch off the end of one, chewed for a moment, and the heat began to build. It took a beer and a half, plus a slice of bread, before my eyes stopped watering. And I like hot food. The hottest pepper on record may be a habanero, but the average African Birdseye pepper is much hotter than the average habanero, IMHO.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Four Item Meme thingie

Pizza delivery driver
In-house tech support
Bench technician
Retail management

Pulp Fiction
The Punisher

Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee
LaPlace, Louisiana
Smyrna, Georgia
Rossville, Georgia

Law & Order
Stargate: SG-1
South Park

I've never taken an actual vacation. I've had vacation time, but never used it to go anywhere except "home" to visit family.

All Things Motorcycle - Safety Forums
Virago Tech Forums

Barbecued ribs
Taco soup (recipe available for the curious - it's VERY easy to make and delicious!)
Snow crab legs

On my Virago
Some small tropical island devoid of tourists, holding a drink with an umbrella in it
In a heavily fortified compound on about 600 acres of land somewhere in North Dakota

Christmas Cheer

Journal Journal: Christmas...

With all the bull-manure marketing blitz this time of hear, and people worrying about the credit card bills they'll get in January because they thought they just HAD to spend $5,000 on electronics for Little Johnny and a necklace for Cousin Jenny, and people getting offended at hearing the word "Christmas", and people salivating over their forthcoming Christmas bonuses, it's occurred to me that maybe some people need a reminder of why we celebrate December 25, so here goes:

Luke 1:26-35

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Luke 2:1-16

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David); to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

This, my friends, is what we celebrate on December 25. It's probably not the actual birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it really doesn't matter. It's the day we celebrate this, the greatest gift in the history of the world, given by the Lord God Almighty to all the people of the world. The gift of Jesus is eternal salvation; though we fall short of the glory of God, He gave us his only son, Jesus Christ. Through Him we can redeem ourselves in the eyes of our heavenly Father.

So you see, Christmas isn't about a fat guy in a red suit distributing presents via the improbable method of shimmying down people's chimneys. It's not about getting a new XBox or a plasma screen television or a bit of bling to wear on your finger or around your neck. It is the day on which we celebrate the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas to all, glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will toward men.

User Journal

Journal Journal: I finally decided enough was enough... 4

I finally had enough at work and am in job-search mode.

I currently work at a new-and-used bookstore in the East Ridge TN/Ringgold GA area. My boss is the most annoying, unconsciously selfish person I have ever met, with the possible exception of a former boss of mine from when I was in college. Interestingly, both of these top two are from Northern California. Though I hate to stereotype, I have to wonder if that might have something to do with it.

In any case, here's the typical routine:

When my boss takes a day off, she comes in the next morning to find all the used books that have been traded in on the previous day cleaned, priced, and on the carts to be shelved. If a shipment of new books arrived on her day off, they have been unpacked and checked into the computer. Special orders are pulled and the customers called, and the rest of the new books have been put on the shelves. All the counters are clear and clean, the cash drawer has been counted down, and the daily report and deposit are sitting on her desk in the office. Any special orders placed on her day off have been duly recorded on the intended form with all information present, including customer name and phone number, title, author, price, and ISBN. Said special orders have been put into a draft purchase order.

When I take a day off, I come in the next day to find unprocessed used book trade-ins stacked on every square inch of counter space and the little island behind the counter. There's always a box of new books that arrived the previous day, sitting out on the floor in a customer area. Usually, there are a few books missing from those boxes, where she pulled a couple of books out and sold them without checking them into the computer. Every one of the binders, such as "used book trade credit", "customer special orders", "B&T invoices", etc. is sitting out on the counter, usually open and under a stack of unprocessed used book trade-ins. Most of the customer special orders are recorded on the intended form, though most are missing some piece(s) of vital information - like the customer's name or the title of the book. At least once every week I find where she has recorded something like "Snider - Jordan 4" when she should have recorded "Joe Snider - 555-1234 - The Shadow Rising (Wheel of Time, book 4) Paperback - Robert Jordan - $7.99 - 0812513738". Sometimes all that's recorded is the first word of the title or the customer's first or last name. I am left to try and decipher who wanted what, by looking at a special order slip that may have only "Smith" written on it. Of course, she always thinks when she's writing these down that she'll remember what to order and for whom. She rarely does. As a result, we frequently fail to figure out who wanted what when trying to piece together the scanty information she puts on the special order form.

Of course, when a customer calls about a special order they placed, and we have no record of it because she didn't write the info down on the slip, I am the one who gets dressed down, often in front of customers.

Last Wednesday, the boss said she hated to take a day off from work because she felt like "nothing gets done" when she's not there.

That was the final straw.

So I started looking at the local newspaper's classified ads, and saw an ad for OTR (Over-The-Road) Driver Trainees. The company pays for the training to get my CDL, and I'm allegedly guaranteed $0.36 per mile and 2,500 miles per week. This adds up to a little more than double what I make in the bookstore. I'm also told I'll be at home "most nights and weekends."

I filled out an online application, at the end of which I was asked to call a representative. He emailed me an informational packet and told me to peruse that and call him Monday, and he believes he can get me "pre-hired" by a local trucking company. I'd start my 3 weeks of CDL training in the first part of January.

The catch: The training is in Arkansas. I am responsible for transportation there and back (500 miles each way, or a total of about $150 worth of gas in my F-150), and for my room and board for those 3 weeks. They have some apartments near the training center, and I can stay there 3 weeks for $295. The only other out of pocket expense would be $60 to the state for my actual CDL.

My uncle drove a truck for several years in the early 70's before he took a better job as a welder (and subsequently broke his back and lost the use of his legs). His training was in Kentucky and cost him $500 including room and board - in 1971 dollars. The deal I'm looking at is considerably cheaper as far as out-of-pocket expenses go, and even if I hated the company that hired me right off the bat, I'd still have my CDL. There are ALWAYS a lot of ads in the employment classifieds for people with a CDL, so I'd never be without a job that pays at least 75% more than I'm making now. And truck driving isn't exactly a job that can be outsourced to China or India.

So I ask you, O Slashdotters who actually read my journal, do you think I should do this?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Page 23 Meme 2

Cue taken from StalinsNotDead and RailGunner


1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Turn to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

Nearest book: Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind
(mass market paperback, ISBN 0-812-54805-1)

5th sentence on page 23:

"He told her about his house in the woods, how he liked living away from town, and that he was a guide for travellers through the Hartland Woods on their way to or from the town itself."

User Journal

Journal Journal: Barbecued Baby Back Ribs Recipe 2

I had to share this with some folks, because this recipe makes the best damn ribs I've ever had. There are a few very important bits to remember when you set out to barbecue. First, cook low and slow. That means low temperatures and long cooking times. Second, the smoke is half the flavor. You cannot get barbecue flavor by sticking raw meat in an oven. You can finish the meat in the oven, but start it on a smoky fire - the smoke flavor gets into the meat best when the smoke hits raw meat. Finally, the kind of wood you use for smoke affects the flavor. I like hickory, some people prefer mesquite. If you're a novice, use charcoal and add wood chips soaked in water to get the smoke. The best barbecue fire uses large wood chunks to replace the charcoal entirely, but that's an advanced topic and takes lots of practice to get right. Don't try a pure wood fire for the first time when you've got 30 friends coming over for barbecue. Charcoal with hickory or mesquite chips can be used to cook some damn fine barbecue.


(2) racks of baby back ribs
(1) 12 ounce (355ml) bottle of beer (I use Corona or any cheap American pilsner - don't waste good beer on your marinade)
1 cup (236ml) lemon juice
4 tablespoons (60ml) sea salt
1/2 cup (118ml) brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15ml) garlic powder
1 tablespoon (15ml) onion powder
1 teaspoon (5ml) paprika
1 teaspoon (5ml) ground red pepper

Start the night before by putting the ribs in a casserole dish or baking pan just big enough to hold both racks. Add beer and lemon juice and let soak overnight. If the ribs aren't quite covered by the liquid, you can add a little bit of water to cover the ribs - the important thing is that the ribs soak in an acidic solution overnight, preferably one that will add a little flavor (hence beer and lemon juice rather than driveway cleaner).

The next day remove the ribs from the marinade and discard the marinade. Pat the ribs mostly dry with paper towels.

Mix the salt, sugar, garlic powder, paprika, red pepper, and onion powder together. Rub about 1/3 of it into the meat (convex) side of the ribs. It will dissolve and seem to disappear, but quite a bit will make it into the fibers of the meat. This is what you want. Now sprinkle more of the mixture onto the ribs. The first bit that you sprinkle on will get a little wet. Keep sprinkling till there's a thin layer of dry stuff on top of the wet stuff. You'll probably have some left over - put it in an airtight container and refrigerate it for next time :)

Now fire up the grill. This is the tricky part. A double-chamber grill where the firebox is separate from the cooking area is ideal. A regular grill, however, can be used; it'll just be a bit trickier. Use a low, small fire. Use hickory chunks rather than charcoal if you're comfortable using plain wood. Otherwise, you can use charcoal and just add some hickory chips to get the smoke. If you go this route, soak the hickory chips in water for about 30 minutes. Then put them in a basket or something similar and shake off the excess water, and put them on the fire about 10 minutes before you add the ribs. Add a few more chips every so often as the old chips smolder away so it keeps smoking. I'll mention a few ways to regulate temperature in a regular grill further on down. If you're using a good double-chamber grill, just open the damper between the firebox and the cooking chamber a bit more to increase temp, close it a bit to decrease temp.

The fire needs to be a bit smoky. The smoke is very important - this is about 2/3 of the flavor of the ribs. You don't want billowing clouds of smoke, but you do want to see some smoke.

In any case, you want the temperature of the grill with the lid closed to be between 200 and 220 degrees Fahrenheit (93-104C).

Put the ribs on the grill, rib (concave) side down. Close the lid. Keep it closed. Check the temperature every hour. If it falls below 200 degrees Fahrenheit, add some more wood or charcoal and/or open the bottom vents to the grill more and/or close the lid vents to the grill more. If it climbs above 230 Fahrenheit, open the lid vents and close the bottom vents. Cook for about 2 and a half hours. Now coat the ribs with your favorite barbecue sauce, wrap them in aluminum foil, and cook them that way till done. It'll take another hour, maybe an hour and a half, maybe even a touch longer if your fire is on the low end of the acceptable heat range. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat - when it reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit, it's done.

You can finish the ribs in the oven after you wrap them in foil if you want to (it's hard to keep a low fire going at the right temp for several hours, especially in a regular single-chamber grill). I don't, however, recommend starting them in the oven then transferring to the grill. Remember, the meat picks up the smoke flavor when it's raw, not when it's half-cooked. If you do want to finish cooking them in the oven, just preheat the oven to 220F and put the ribs in there for the last couple hours.

I'd like to take this opportunity to plug a book written by a local author. Smoke in the Mountains - The Art of Appalachian Barbecue is more than simply a collection of barbecue recipes - it teaches you how to be a better barbecue chef, so you can create your own great barbecue recipes to suit your tastes. Kent Whitaker, winner of the Emeril Live Food Network Barbecue Contest, is the author. He stopped by the bookstore where I work and gave me an autographed copy of it a while back, and as a result my barbecue is way better than it was before I got the book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in barbecue.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A simple script (adapted from vandan's spam blacklist)

Here's something I picked up in my /. travels, posted by vandan today. I modified it a little, but it still does basically the same thing. The blacklist is a text file in which each line is an IP address. I keep it in /etc/blacklist. Very simple, very small, and in the words of the original author, it works :)


# variables

# Do stuff.
for IP in `cat $BLACKLIST`

echo Blacklisting Host: $IP

exit 0

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