The Laird Site

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for Robert Laird of Houston, Texas

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April 2015 -- Over 20 years old, that's how old this web site is! Pretty incredible, I think. Unfortunately, much of the information on this web site is pretty old, too. If you have "Google'd me" and found this web site, please bear with me as I update it. It may take a while! I hope you find the new -- and the old -- stuff interesting.


* Welcome!

Howdy, y'all! (What can I say? I'm from Texas! :-)

This is the WWW Home Page of Robert Laird. Here is a rough photo of me. Hey! I said it was rough!


This page has gotten so big, I figured it was time for a Table of Contents. However, if this is your first time here, just skip the TOC, and browse on down the page. Although there are links on this page, it isn't a menu, it's a story. (And my apologies if things are a bit out of date... in the grand scheme of things, a personal web page tends to be pretty far down the list of important things to do.)

Table of Contents

Summary

Details

Professional Interests Details
Avocations
(or, what I do for fun!)

Cayman Islands - Nov 2000
Scuba Diving: Bahamas 6-Pack CyberDive - July 1999
Cave Diving: Bahama Donut Blue Hole - July 1999
Cave Diving: Morris' Cave Sump - July 1998
Cave Diving: Roubidoux Springs Push - Aug 1996
Cave Diving: Cannonball Springs Project - Aug 1996
Cave Diving: Cozumel Cave Project  - March 1996
Cave Diving: Nesbitt Springs Project - Aug 1995
Cave Diving: Training May-Sept 1994
Scuba Diving: Houston Underwater Club
Scuba Diving: Flower Gardens
M/V Fling and M/V Spree
A Scientific Description
Buoy Information (Weather/Seas)
Official Web Site
National Marine Sanctuary page
Virtual Dive
- - - - - - - -

Kayaking on the Nantahala River - April 1999
Scuba Diving: Aquarena Springs Trip Report
- Jan 94
Pictures of Dive Buddies
IUCRR
My Texas-Flyer Website

Family Laird "Extended" Family
(My) Kids Say the Darndest Things
Visitors Form


* Professional Interests

My professional interests include computers (wow! like you couldn't guess that!), and programming... specifically in Delphi, Java, ASP, C, Pascal, VB, etc.

I'm currently an IT Manager for an energy trading company.  I provide management of overall IT infrastructure and execution and management of resources and project initiatives in support of a rapidly growing energy trading business.  I'm responsible for enterprise servers (Windows and UNIX), networking, voice and data telecom, enterprise system security, disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity planning (BCP), and customer service management. Also responsible for establishing the IT and telcom infrastructure for remote offices.  I'm part of the IT senior management team that works directly with business executives and senior management to establish priorities, direction, and strategies as related to IT service delivery.

Before that, I was doing IT Architecture, specifically business process modeling, using CASEwise Corporate Modeler.  

In prior years, I've done Enterprise Architecture, and IT R&D, testing products for the company I work for. For a little while, I took a break and got involved with a Middleware project, using Java J2EE, WebLogic and Vitria's BusinessWare, and it involved a lot of programming. I also deal with Microsoft Windows NT/2000/2003 and Linux, and used to deal with Banyan VINES networks, and I'd write utilities for use with those brands of networks. I also write Win32 and [used to write] Netware utilities, as well as create system level programs to make life easier for the end-user.

For about 5 years (1985-1990), I was president of HUB (Houston Users of Banyan), the local chapter of ABUI (the Association of Banyan Users International). I used to install and setup Novell Networks, but discovered VINES in 1985 and was -- and still am -- impressed by the technology. [Unfortunately, Banyan has gone the way of the ... well, you were expecting me to say "dodo bird", right? ... well, it's gone more the way of the SR-71 Blackbird... super-high-tech, very capable, but expensive, technology that somehow couldn't convince very many people of it's value. But there is still an extremely loyal base of people who believed in VINES, the technology, if not the Banyan, the company.  Interestingly, Banyan morphed into Switchboard.com because of their directory services.]

Ok... so, just what do I do, exactly? IT Enterprise Architecture is the official term. What that means is that I look at the big picture of how IT computer systems should be set up as to further the business goals of a company. If you read much further on, you'll see that I'm not so much a specialist in any one area of IT, but more of a Generalist who has both a broad and deep understanding of IT and how business needs are addressed by computer technologies.  Lately I've been doing business process mapping (also called business process improvement, or, business process reengineering), using a tool called Casewise Corporate Modeler.  Before that, I was helping with SOX 404 requirements, part of the new corporate accountability sanctioned by Congress after the Enron debacle.

I spent a year creating a Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity plan for a trading company.  It was very interesting work, and very rewarding to see the plan in action (even if it was just a test!).

For a time I was up to my ears in Middleware.  It involved taking existing systems and integrating them, without affecting them. Anyone in programming will tell you that's about the toughest job there is in this business. It involved what was at the time a fairly new idea in programming, where data is published on to a channel, and the applications that need that data subscribes to that channel and pick it up in near-real-time. It's very interesting, and requires a lot of Java experstise.  Of course, these days, middleware is, ahem, everywhere.  As usual, the things that are bleeding-edge technology when I look at them end up being middle-of-the-road technology fairly quickly.  Well, if it's useful technology, that is.

I spend a good deal of my time doing research and writing white-papers on what kinds of new, emerging technologies might be good for the companies I consult for. When the company decides they like a new technology, I'll create a proof-of-concept project to show how it works and integrates, and then give a C-level presentation.  If there's a fit, I then turn it over to an implementation group, and provide whatever training and documentation that is needed.

I also do special projects (which often means no one else can figure out how to do them) such as:  create customized EDI systems; write document management programs; get optical jukeboxes to work on networks; do feasibility studies of large databases on client/server environments; create infrastructure designs for large, wide-area-networks; create SQL Server backup routines with automatic remote restoration for disaster recovery; write utilities that glue incompatible systems together; create nonNotesMail-to-Notes directory synchronization processes; create Web pages and scripts; write custom CGI components for Web servers; create password synchronization products; do Notes development; create Internet/Intranet utilities using TCP/UDP, FTP, and SMTP/POP3 protocols, and other boring stuff like that. I also teach most computer subjects, design and write end-user manuals, consult with small/med./large businesses on long-term computing needs, and don't mind getting down-'n'-dirty with PC installation or repair.

For more detailed information on my professional interests and abilities, click here.


* Avocations (the important stuff!)

One of my principle avocations is SCUBA diving, preferably cave diving. Yes, that means SCUBA diving into water-filled caves with no air pockets and, yes, it's very dangerous for the untrained/unprepared individual. However, with the proper training (via NACD, IANTD (or IANTD), NSS-CDS), or GUE, equipment, preparation and frame of mind, it's actually VERY safe.

After my training, I started out by doing strictly recreational cave diving, of course, but found myself invited to do exploration work. Although the invitations were unexpected, I've enjoyed it immensely, it has been very rewarding, personally, and I continue doing exploration work at every chance I get. In summary, here are the highlights, so far:

  • Here is a summary of my cave diving training.
  • In August 1995, I was part of a team of sump divers and dry cavers doing some exploration on the Nesbitt Springs cave in north-central Arkansas.
  • In March 1996, I was part of an expedition into a little known cave in Cozumel, Aerolito, and I actually got to discover new cave and lay new line! It was very exciting. After that was over, I spent 3 days in the Akumal area on the Yucatan peninsula doing some recreational cave diving in some of the most beautiful systems in the world. Read this for a full description of my 10-day working vacation.
  • I returned to Cozumel in July '96, and continued the exploration. Joel and I stayed at the beautiful Tamarindo Bed & Breakfast. (If you want to do some awesome recreational ocean diving on Cozumel, contact Aldora Divers.)

  • On August 18, 1996, I made a push dive into Cannonball Springs, Lake Wapepello, Missouri, with Kurt Olson. I reached a new personal depth record of 301', using trimix, and we discovered a new room, about 200' beyond the major restriction in the big funnel room. For more details read my trip report. There is also a photo gallery which you can view (warning: lengthy downloads!).
  • Two days later, Kurt and I made a push into Roubidoux Springs, near Waynesville, Missouri. Here is that story.
  • I've also done several exploration dives into a little known cave in West Texas, called Goodenough Springs.
  • And, I went back to Cozumel in Dec '96, and then again in April '97, for more work on Aerolito.
  • In July 1998, I did a solo exploration of a dry cave and sump near Gravois Mills, Missouri.
  • July 1999, I did a short duration, but deep trimix cave dive in Donut Blue Hole off of Andros Island, The Bahamas.

 

For several years I was a Divemaster on board the M/V Fling or M/V Spree out of Freeport, Texas. They are two (fairly identical) 100' dive boats that usually frequent the Flower Gardens National Marine Sanctuary, located 110 miles SSE of Freeport. This is a detailed description of the Flower Gardens, one of my favorite places to dive. (Want to check out the conditions at the Flower Gardens? Click here!)

(Note: Rinn Boats has now put up there own Web page for the Fling/Spree, but I'm going to go ahead and leave mine up, too. Click here to see their page.)

I have also been a Divemaster for the Houston Underwater Club, one of the oldest non-profit dive clubs in America, founded in 1957, and sponsor of SeaSpace, the largest public scuba diving exposition in the Southwest, providing more than $33,000 in marine science scholarships and grants each year.

And, when I'm not doing my divemaster schtick, then I go diving for fun. At least once a year, there is a CyberDive (a term coined by the members of the CompuServe SCUBA Forum, to indicate any dive gathering that was originated and organized by/for members of the SCUBA Forum). In 1994, there were two national/international level cyberdives, both at Ginnie Springs, near High Springs, Florida. The first in May, the next in October (Halloween) of that year.

In 1995, there was another one the week before Halloween and involved over 50 divers from around the world, among them, my good friend Mick Wilkins. It was called the EFCD, for, European-Florida-Cyber-Dive, since several European members of the SCUBA Forum flew over to do some diving in Florida. Here are some photos I've scanned in from the trip.

In July 1999, six CyberDivers met in The Bahamas for the "Bahamas 6-Pack CyberDive" at DiveDiveDive on the south end of New Providence island.

Map of Texas & Lake TravisI've actually hosted two Texas CyberDives, one at Lake Travis (near Austin; see map at right) in August 1994, and the second at Possum Kingdom Lake (2 hours west of Dallas) in August 1995. Another Texas CyberDive was planned for a February 24-25, 1996 Flower Gardens (hammerhead shark) trip aboard the M/V Spree, but it was blown out by the weather (not unusual for that time of year).

Here is a trip report of a winter dive made at Aquarena Springs, in San Marcos, Texas, before the University took it over and made you take a course.

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With Henry Nicholson, I co-founded the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery (IUCRR) team.  This non-profit organization basically consists of experienced volunteer cave divers who have the training and experience required for managing and/or participating in the rescue or recovery of victims in underwater overhead environments, like underwater caves.  I'm also the secretary/treasurer, and public liaison for the organization, and I'm also the Regional Coordinator for Texas (and any states without an assigned R.C.)

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The other principal avocation I have is aviation.  I started off by getting my ultralight pilot certification in 2000. Then I became an Ultralight Flight Instructor.  I'm now flying small experimental aircraft under the new Sport Pilot rule.  You can read stories of some of my flying adventures at Texas-Flyer.com

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

My next favorite hobby is reading.

Predictably, my other favorite hobby: the movies!

And, last, someday, when I grow up, I want to be a writer.  Here's a book I wrote, that you can order, The Tunnel (click here to order ), a cave-diving adventure story.


*Family

Quick Genealogy:
- Lodowick Laird b:unk d: 1804
-- Robert Laird, Sr b: 1742 d: 3/16/1834
--- Robert Laird Jr b: 177? d: unk
---- Archibald (my great-great-grandfather) b: 3/22/1816 d: 11/17/1884
----- Hiram (my great-grandfather) b: 2/22/1846 d: 10/7/1897
------ John S. Laird (my grandfather) b: 1/24/1882 d: 2/27/1973
------- Raymond W. Laird (my father) b: 11/14/1914 d: 11/23/1994

I have three brothers:

  • John -- a mechanical engineer
  • Jim -- a CPA
  • Larry (Ray) -- an electronics hacker ;-)

And two sons.

Also, I've "collected" e-mail and Web addresses of other Lairds that I've found on the Internet. It's kind of a pet project of mine. Click Here to see that page of links.

Schools Attended: West University Elementary, Rummel Creek Elementary, Memorial Jr. High, Westchester High School ('71), and the University of Houston, all of Houston, Texas. I also briefly attended the University of Iceland, in Keflavik, near Reykjavik, the capital.

I served in the U.S. Navy from 1972-1975, first on the USS Bagley DE-1069 (later changed to be a Fast Frigate, so, FF-1069) and went on its first WestPac Cruise... then transfered to the NATO base at Keflavik, Iceland for about a year. My job was primarily personnel office duties (PN3). Here are some pictures from the Bagley.


*Visitors - click here to make a Guestbook entry
By the way, all guestbook submissions are checked before posting, so there's no point in trying to spam it!

(Note:  Guestbooks have gone through all kinds of changes throughout the years, mostly because of the spammers... so, most of the guestbook entries I've collected through the years are gone... <sniff>... )

You can also send me an email, if you prefer.


For the first 3 years of creating and maintaining this page and all other related pages, I created them 100% manually... by hand... with no HTML editor or other utility.  Eventually, someone created an HTML editor I liked. It's not perfect, but it's pretty close... so, because it's so handy, all changes made after 7/7/98 won't necessarily be by hand, but you can be sure I'll be tweaking it by hand!) Sometime around 2000 software companies were finally making world-class web page creation environments -- Dreamweaver and GoLive, to name two -- so the work of creating a web site became a lot easier.

I also used to be the Webmaster for the Web site for the National Speleological Society, Cave Diving Section. I designed and implemented it, but turned over its maintenance after 5 years. To see it in its current manifestation, click here. Here's an award plaque I got for running the site.

I've also designed and implemented several web sites, some I maintain, others I don't. Here's one. And another. And another. And another. And another.



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