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Monday, September 12, 2016

Please Welcome Our New Employee Josh Schaefer!

Josh Schaefer recently joined BIT as a LAN Services Technician. Originally from Pierre, Josh attended the University of South Dakota where he majored in History and English.

Prior to working at BIT, Josh worked for River Cities Public Transit as a dispatch lead and tech support. Josh says he most looks forward to being able to work on computers and solve problems.

In his free time, Josh enjoys building and working on computers. He explained, “I have also been an avid gamer since my first Atari 2600. Sadly for my bank account, the two of these hobbies mean I am obligated to put new upgrades into my home desktop computer about every 6 months.”

Additionally, Josh has an ever-growing collection of books, primarily consisting of fantasy and non-fiction military history. He also enjoys playing and watching a handful of sports. Some of his favorite teams are Notre Dame (football), Chicago Cubs (baseball) and Liverpool FC in the English Premier League (soccer).

Welcome to BIT, Josh! We are happy to have you!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Marcia Graves: A Quilting Extraordinaire

Marcia Graves, a software engineer for Development, began quilting almost 40 years ago when she made a baby gift for her nephew who is about to retire from the Army- and still has the quilt!

It took Marcia about two weeks to make the quilt with the dogs and about a month to make the pastel quilt. When asked what the hardest part of the quilting process was she explained, “Nothing is hard. It takes some effort to get the corners to match but it is so great when they do. The really fun part is hunting for just the right fabric. Sometimes it takes months to find just the right piece!!”

Marcia explained that with her quilts she does the patchwork and has friends who do the quilting; which once again involves finding just the right pattern. She elaborated, “for the dog quilt, the pattern is shotgun shells and for the pastel quilt (I call it Sea Glass) the pattern is called ‘surf’.”

Marcia joked, “I have an artistic side and since a paint brush is a weapon in my hands, I have to find another outlet. I love picking out the patterns and colors and then seeing them come to life in the finished product!”

We look forward to seeing your future creations, Marcia!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Please Welcome New BIT Employee Colin Morris!

Colin Morris has recently joined BIT as a Software Engineer for Development Team 1. He is a recent graduate from Dakota State University where he majored in Computer Science and Game Design. Colin is currently working on programming the new retirement utility program!

Being a recent graduate from DSU and having this be, as Colin puts it, his first “real world experience with having a job,” he was slightly apprehensive that he might not fit in around here. As it turns out, quite a few of Colin’s fellow DSU graduates are now working for the state as well!

Colin is originally from South Carolina and is engaged. In his free time you can find him playing video games, hanging out with friends, and playing lacrosse.

Welcome to BIT, Colin! We are excited to have you!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Marcia Graves: Software Engineer and... Drag Racer?

About 15 years ago, Marcia Graves decided to pick up new hobby. What may you ask? Well, drag racing and road racing of course!

Road racing is done on closed public highways with the racers competing to come closest to their own specified average times for the course.

Marcia explained, “I had kids when I was young, so when they all left home I had time and money to pick it up. I have always loved fast cars and have wanted to do it since I was a teenager.”

Since her racing career began, Marcia has used 4 different cars. Two were Ford Mustangs for drag racing and two were Corvettes for road racing. She went on to explain:

“I have to depend on friends to help with the maintenance, so my drag cars are pretty docile - they only run about 112 in the quarter mile. I wrecked my first Mustang at the track and found another. Had a little better luck with the Corvettes, sold the 1st one to finance the second.”

On the weekends when the races are going you can usually find Marcia at the Oahe Speedway participating in drag racing events. Throughout the year she also attends two road racing events, one in Texas in April and the second in Nebraska in August. Coincidentally, Marcia just returned from the event in Nebraska where her 2007 Corvette Z06 did 195.7 mph in the standing mile!

When asked what she likes most about racing Marcia explained, “I love going fast! I am an adrenaline junkie!”

Want to see Marcia in all her glory? She will be at the Oahe Speedway racing on August 27th and 28th and then again on Labor Day weekend!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Please Welcome New Employee Casi Popko!

Recently, Casi Popko joined BIT as a Software Engineer for Development Team 1. She will primarily be working in support of BHR. She is originally a local Pierre resident and graduated from SDSU with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and minors in Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering and Mathematics.

After graduating, Casi went on to work as a Mechanical Engineer at IBM Rochester, MN. That job entailed hardware design and software appliances. Before that, she had several internships that incorporated science ideas with software design. She is also partway through an online Master’s program through DSU, Masters of Applied Computer Science, which she will be continuing.

In her spare time, Casi enjoys rock climbing, running, playing board games, and reading. She is looking forward to learning new skills and applying her vantage point to the State.

Welcome to BIT, Casi! We are excited to have you!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What's Up With "Dem Bonz"?

Barrie Sargent created a dominoes game for computers otherwise known as “Dem Bonz.” When asked what prompted him to create this game he explained:

“Before we met in 1991, my wife went to ITT Technical Institute, where she built an 8088 computer, and her materials for it included an ANSI C compiler called Power C by Mix Software (http://www.mixsoftware.com/product/powerc.htm), complete with a comprehensive manual and language reference guide. 

While I had learned computer programming in high school and college (1983 – 1987) I had gone a different direction and not worked with computers for several years.  I was intrigued and decided to use the book to teach myself C, but not being content to simply read the book I decided to pick a project to develop.  At the time I worked at a juvenile detention facility in downtown Denver, where the kids interred had taught me how to play dominoes, and after searching in vain for a dominoes game for computers (by this time I had a 286sx), either to purchase or download from a bulletin board service (i.e., CompuServe, there was no “web” yet), I decided to write my own.”

As to how the game was named “Dem Bonz,” Barrie explained that while working at the juvenile detention center, the kids commonly referred to dominoes as “bones,” and often when they wanted to play a game of dominoes they would say something to the extent of “let’s play them bones.” Barrie went on to elaborate:

“I don’t know if it was because of their poor enunciation or my familiarity with the song ‘Dem Bones’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dem_Bones), or perhaps a bit of both, but ‘Dem Bones’ sounded like a good name for the dominoes game; I simply changed the spelling of ‘bones’ to ‘bonz’ to avoid any type of copyright conflict with the song.”

A while after releasing Dem Bonz on the shareware market, Barrie had received a phone call from someone stating that he represented Willie Nelson. The person went on to explain that a multimedia CD-ROM commemorating Willie and his music was in the works, Willie liked to play dominoes and liked Barrie’s game. He then asked if Barrie would be willing to make a modified version for him for a one-time payout of $1,000 to include on the CD-ROM. Barrie explained:

“I was already working on a newer version for the game, so it was easy to put together a ‘one-off’ version for him called ‘Willie Nelson World Championship Dominoes’ that used his name and his friends’ names as the player names.  Willie Nelson himself called me on the phone to discuss it with me, one of those calls I wish I could have recorded for posterity.”

When asked if we should anticipate another game from Barrie anytime soon he replied:

“Not really. I often considered writing an updated version of the game, particularly when Windows 95 was released and windows-based games became popular.  I even made a point of choosing artificial intelligence as my research topic for a technical writing course I had during my studies for my master’s degree, just so I could one day make the game more challenging (it was never really very hard, with the AI being very simple-minded, so to speak).  But there isn’t much call for it now.  Besides, after working 40 hours per week writing code for BIT and 10 – 20 hours per week teaching online courses for National American University, I have enough trouble finding time to work on non-computer-related projects.” 

An online review for “Dem Bonz” can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aBuCw_iWz4

“Dem Bonz” can be downloaded here:

And if you get the urge to see Willie Nelson’s version, you can find his multimedia CD-ROM on eBay for $5 to $15 plus shipping.