Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Personal Branding

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:27 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Personal branding has always been interesting to me.

Maybe it’s my degree in Marketing that drives this strange interest in market segmentation and branding, or maybe it was the obsession, and being raised by a professional salesman and marketer, that led me to get a degree in Marketing. Either way, brands and how they’re created have always interested me. Toward furthering my knowledge and understanding of how brands work, I got a book sometime back that I’m just reading now, called Wordcraft. The book is all about the process of naming “stuff” in the business world. Naturally, this touches on brands.
One realtaively new idea in branding has been the “personal brand”. The idea that an individual can brand themselves. Naturally, the most common example is usually a Hollywood star who literally is their brand. But, consider also Oprah, Martha Stewart and Michael Jordan. Well, what got me thinking about this lately is the long conversations I’ve been having with an artist friend of mine, Mark Flood(link may not be safe for work, small children or my ex-wife), while I was in the hospital getting my chemo. In a way, he has branded himself, at least in the art world. His thinking, his creativity and his work is his brand, so to speak. I think this is true for every artist, even literary artists.
Right now, I censor myself quite heavily, though you might not always know it, because this blog and website are so closely associated with my corporate professional life. In a certain sense, I have branded this site and blog. Not in a truly conscious way, but in a somewhat organic way a personal brand has emerged. So, I started thinking about branding at this level in a more directed, concerted way. Naturally, that led me to start Googling the topic. I found a number of links, but the series of posts on Blog Branding that Chris Garrett has written looked like the best to me. I haven’t read them all yet, but I plan to before I launch my next project.

Which brings me to my next related thought in this post…
This site is what I think of as my “serious, computer professional site”, which regular readers will know is really not all that serious, professional or even always computer related. Still, it’s far from the wildly creative zany, wacky, perhaps even literary website I have in mind. And, that, dear readers, is my next super-secret project. In fact, this creative project is so secret it doesn’t even have a name yet. Well, okay, it doesn’t have a name yet because I haven’t finished Wordcraft yet and started the brainstorming process to create a new “brand name” for the site.  I tried doing this initially with Fantasist.net, but well, found the whole thing a bit too limiting.  I mean, not everything I write or create is fantasy, sometimes it’s science-fiction or even, gasp, modern or literary fiction.  So, I want something more, well, generically creative than that.  And, I’ve been considering consolidating or abandoning old, disused websites I’ve had and domain names I’ve controlled.  (Does anyone want to buy HavePalmWillTravel.com?)  So, moving content to the new site would bring some instant presence, without the baggage.  At least, in theory.

There are, of course, a lot of issues to work out still.
Not the least of which is a logo.  I used to rely on my ex-wife, the graphic designer, to generate most of my graphics.  Not that I ever actually got what I asked for, in spite of spending a fortune on graphics software for her.  There are several logo companies on the web that make logos cheap and, well, frankly, their work looks pretty good.  Better than what I eventually got from the ex-wife, in any case.  And, the bottom line is they produce in a timely fashion for a reasonable price.  In case you’re interested, I’m looking at using the firms listed in this old article on Wired Magazine about logo and brand creation.  The prices they list are out of date, since the article is several years old, but the information on the companies has been a great help.  I’m still thinking about it, but, I’ll probably end up doing it.  Logos are important to brands and, well, you get what you pay for.  At least, when you’re not paying in barter and to “family”.  I’ll keep you all updated on this process, either way.

So, that’s what I’ve been thinking about since I got out of the hospital last, at least, in regards to branding and blogs and such.
Oh, to protect my creative brand, I probably won’t actually link to it from here or mention it by name, though I will talk about the process as I work on it.  For those who are truly interested, e-mail me when it’s done and I’ll send you the info.  Don’t worry, I’ll announce it again when I finally get it up and running.


No Wasted Moments

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.
Benjamin Franklin, ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack,’ June 1746

I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately.
Specifically, how much time I’ve wasted over the years and all the ways I’ve wasted it.  I think too much and do too little.  Hell, I channel surf too much and produce too little.  I’ve been making a concerted effort to do more lately.  It probably doesn’t show on my blog, as I’ve not been producing entries at my pre-cancer rate, but I have been reading a bit more.  And, I’ve been talking to people more.  That, in its own strange way, is productive for me.  Oh, I can list off excuses galore for why I haven’t done more, espeically lately, but, in the end, that’s all they are, excuses.  So, I’m trying to waste less time.  To have fewer wasted moments.  Obviously, I’m far from perfect on this, but, in the end, if I want to change my life then I have to make the change I want.

So, I’m trying.  Trying to lead a more productive life that makes me happy.
A friend asked me some time back what I did to have fun and I was stumped.  It’s been so long since I allowed myself to have fun, as opposed to just not work, that I didn’t have a good answer.  Freakishly, I think the last fun I had was coding some Perl or PHP for my writing and fantasy webpage, Fantasist.net.  I guess that really does make me a hard-core geek, but, well, getting the funky tools working on that site really did kind of flip my switch.  Not enough to make a career out of it, but enough to give me a sense of geeky glee.  Sadly, many of those tools have been disabled because my current webhost can’t deal with the traffic that they were generating.  So, maybe, when I have a little more mental snap, I’ll work at recoding them to work with different technology so that they don’t overload their servers anymore.

And, along with all the reading, I’m going to try to write more.
For me, actually writing is about letting go.  Letting go of all the crap that I know will come out before the gold does.  That’s always been the way of creating really good stuff, at least for me, knowing that 90% of it will be crap and that’s okay.  Also, it’s about discipline.  Now, there are people who know me that would tell you I’m the most disciplined man they know, but I know better.  It only takes a moment for that discipline to slip and, once it slips, it’s hard to get back.  Writing is like that.  I used to write all the time and the discipline was easy, but now…  Well, now it’s slipped and it’s proven very hard to get back.  Still, if I own that I want and need to work at getting it back in enoug places with enough people, then I hope that I’ll be able to do just that.
We’ll see.

So, I can’t promise that I’ll never have another wasted moment.
I know people tend to think that surviving cancer, which I haven’t even quite done yet, is supposed to change my life in some deep, meaningful way that leads me to “Live Strong” and do away with wasted moments, but it’s not quite so simple.  Changing a life is hard, but, I think it’ll be worth it, so I’m working at that.  Who knows, maybe one day, if I change enough, my former step-daughter will look past the lies her mother has told her and see someone worth getting to know again.  For that alone, it would be worth making some life changes.
In the end, all I can do is try.  And, so, I will.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"I'm always amazed that people take what I say seriously. I don't even take what I am seriously."
   --David Bowie


How Blogs Kill Writing

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:35 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

This is something that has been on my mind for quite some time now.

I recently read an interesting article at Slate via MSN.com about how keeping a blog kept one hopeful writer from actually writing for publication. Now, I wish I could say that I’ve been spending my time away from the blog these days being super productive and writing the Great American Novel, but, sadly, that’s just not so. Still, I have wondered what I might have produced when I was blogging so much, both here and at Fantasist.net, if I’d written fiction instead of all the “wonderful”, self-involved, navel-gazing posts. Oh, sure, I suppose that really is what blogging is about, mostly, but, still, I always seem more productive when I’m not focused on myself, but on someone, or something, else instead.

In that respect, at least, I have been a little productive, since I’ve been helping LK (aka Ms. NewGal) with her business, Pink Poodle Gourmet. Not much help, yet, but as I get free from working on my divorce lawyer‘s website, I’ll have more time for her business. I still need to get a better picture of him up, but, mostly, the front-end is done. Oh, I may have a couple hours here and there to do some refining work on it, but, mostly, it’s all backend stuff now. Of course, that’s part of what I’ll be doing for LK, but there’s more there, too, thanks to my Marketing degree. Still, it’s not writing, is it? So, even when I’m not wasting time at work blogging or staying up into the wee hours to get my all too personal point-of-view out to the public, I manage to avoid writing.

My therapist questioned my devotion to my blog over my writing early on in our sessions. He seemed to think that my writing was good enough that I should get paid for it. Of course, he might have been trying to pump me up and give me a reason to not off myself, but, well, it didn’t feel like that was what he was doing, either then or now. In fact, I’ve had at least one professional writer give me some encouragement, though, honestly, she’s so nice I’m not sure I can trust her to give me an honest opinion about my terrible writing style. Still, she is a pro and cute, so, I’ll take what I can get! And, I was good enough, once, to get accepted by a periodical that, sadly, went out of business before I could ever be published. Not quite the Great American Novel, but, still, it would have been a start.

I’ve tried to start blogs as writing projects, much like the author of the Slate article, and met with similar results. Though, that is how the blog at Fantasist.net got started, among other things. I’ve tried to start with maps of various kinds, too. I’ve even tried to start by creating fantasy languages, but all the attempts ended with the same result. I get bogged down in the details and requirements of these artificial starting points, these manufactured muses that simply serve as excuses for why I “can’t” write quite yet. So many reasons not to write, many that seem so plausible to the outside world, but, in the end, all just excuses for spiritual cowardice.

I’d love to boldly declare that now, right now as of this very moment, I was going to change and start writing with publication in mind, but I know myself too well. I know that I’ll hold on to those excuses for a little bit longer, until I feel safe again. Until I feel a little more comfortable and secure, then, when life settles down a bit more, I’ll sit down and write. You know, after I’m comfortable with the fact that I’ll never be published in my lifetime, but don’t care because the writing is all that matters. Because, you know what? The writing is the only thing that matters.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If the minimum wasn't acceptable it wouldn't be called the minimum."


The Hell That Was Friday

Filed under: Apple,Career Archive,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Personal,Rotten Apples,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

It all started with those damn black birds last week…
Actually, it was a mostly quiet week, except for the fact that my house refinance is in limbo because my ex-wife’s lawyer didn’t file the special warranty deed that grants me possesion of the house. Ah, well, some things never change. She’s still sticking it to me even after the divorce.
Anyway, today, everyone in the company decided to dump their problems on me for the week. An entire week’s worth in one day. This after a week of Access database development. Yeah, development, not database administration. I hate doing Access development! All pointy-clicky and why-the-hell-does-it-do-that? But, not Friday.
Friday, I replaced a cd-rom drive in the shop. No big deal, right? Yeah, well, at the time, there was a guy in the office looking at negatives of welds, in the dark. So, I did this under someone’s desk by the infrequent light of the glowy box he was using to read the negatives. In other words, I changed a cd-rom drive basically by touch. Then, there was an electrician who need to print labels but was dissatisfied with the fact that they were off by a centimeter in one column. After wrestling with that for fourty-five minutes, I walked away to do something else and found out later that it wasn’t the printer that was off at all. It was the cheap labels he’d bought. They cut them on a bias!
Then, there was the too-picky engineer who complained all day about getting a 19-inch flat-screen LCD. Yeah, complained about it! No one but him could tell the damn difference, but he claimed his recently lasik-ed eyes were strained and hurting because of the low-resolution. Well, until we suggested that he could have his old monitor back. Suddenly then he found settings that looked good enough. Yeah, sure.
But, the coup de grâce was the Vice President of Sales having his Macintrash G4 go South on him. I worked on that alone and, worse, with the boss, who’s the resident Mac expert. There’s noting I hate more than not knowing in front of my boss. And, after buying a hard drive, and exchanging it for one that would actually run in a damn Mac, we finally, after working until 6:30PM on a Friday, finally decided that it was a memory issue. We think. We left it running to see if it hangs up again. So, just to fight my personal ignorance, I went to Borders and bought Mac OS X : The Missing Manual, Tiger Editon . (Well, I also bought some other things including How to Do Everything with PHP and MySQL so I can build an app for Fantasist.net. And, Looking for Jake : Stories, because China Mieville is a great writer and I deserve a break!)
So, tonight after church, children, your Uncle Jim is going to be drinking heavily and ignoring trick-or-treaters. Happy Halloween. Bah!


The Spiders

Filed under: Art,Fiction,Fun,News and Current Events,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

No, this is not a bad acid trip.
Actually, it’s a pretty interesting web comic set in the not too distant future. What’s even more interesting is that it takes place in an Islamic-centric desert country torn by war and terrorism. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought it might. And, trust me, this is a very different look at how that dynamic works. Very thought provoking.
So, check out The Spiders and get ready to be blown away.

Have a fun freaky Friday!
(Yes, this first appeared on Fantasist.net)


Traffic Dropoff

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:48 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Wow, my traffic sure hit a spike in March!
And, it’s been dropping off ever since. Hmm, I wonder who’s not obsessively stalking my website these days? Or is it that I don’t talk enough about popular subjects, like Strom Thurman. Yeah, can you believe that’s still my number one search term? You’d think that “lucy liu porn” or “mariska hargitay porn” would do it more often, like over at Fantasist.net. Go figure! Well, I’m sure when the divorce is over and I’m feeling a little more talky about strange and personal things, traffic will pick up. Not to mention when I finally start dating again! Hmm, I could test future date’s “geek cred” by seeing how impressed they are with my Googlerank. (I’m still the number one hit for “CNE resume” on Google.) What’s a guy got to do to get webstalkers? Never mind, don’t answer that!

Well, time enough for all that. And, of course, I am more than my traffic stats.


News and Updates

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:18 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

There’s a new Pope!
I saw this on the news at lunch and had to look up a story about it to link to for the blog. Here’s one from MSNBC about the new German Pope. So, now this is the second time in hundreds of years that there’s been a non-Italian Pontif and this one is, apparently, much more conservative than John Paul II. Not sure what that will mean to Catholicism around the world, or that he’ll even stay conservative now that he’s Pope, but it’s an interesting turn of events. I find it especially interesting because I’m questioning my own very conservative Christian upbringing. I’m not entirely sure that I believe in absoultely everything that I was taught as a child. And, I’m afraid that it will be quite some time before I figure it all out, too.

Oh, I did finish a book that I’d been laboring over for weeks on end, too. I did a review of the book, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, at Fantasist.net, but I’m too lazy to do anything more than post a link to it. So, if you want to read it, you’ll have to give me traffic to the other site. More news later in the week.


Why blog?

Filed under: Art,Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Dog and Pony Shows,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,PERL,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:16 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Hmm, that’s a good quesiton….
A friend asked me why I blog the other day and it really got me thinking. Why do I blog?

Well, the reasons have changed over the years. Originally, I started “blogging” to chronicle my search for a job here in Houston. Well, it was also a way to try and drive traffic to my website so that the search engines would find my resume. That was almost five years ago, back before there was such a thing as blogging software. In the early days, I hand-coded every page and uploaded it. As one might imagine, I tried to make every “post” count back then. It was a real hassle! But, I kept posting things about my work. Often, I found myself out on the road doing strange things or going odd places for my work and I wrote about it. I tried to focus on the technical side of things, but every so often, I would throw in something strange about my personal life, like getting married.
Then, back in September of 2002, I heard about Moveable Type, which was the first really good blogging application. It ran on PERL and MySQL, which were things I wanted to learn, so it seemed like a good choice. And, it was. I was able to post more often and more easily than ever before. And, I was out of work, again, so I moved from work war stories back to the seemingly endless search for work. It was the Summer after Enron and IT work was hard to come by, so I started posting more and more about my own personal thoughts, hopes and dreams. The blog started to become much more personal. It was a place to vent my frustrations, though I did so carefully as I was ever mindful that a future employer might read my postings.
Somewhere in there, I also started my other blog on Fantasist.net. There I posted things that were purely fun for me. Nothing but cool science and fantasy stuff, some of my fiction and poetry, and just plain cool or weird things. It was there that I originally started posting my “Fun Friday” links. That carried over here and I’ve done my best to maintain that to this day.
Now, I’ve upgraded to WordPress and blogging couldn’t be easier or more fun. I’m still carefull about what I post. I have a fairly varied audience, some of which include family that might be under the age of 18, so I do my best to be intelligent without being insulting to too many people. I do my best to keep the profanity and “adult material” to a minimum, too, for the same reasons.

So, why do I keep posting? Well, I can always use the traffic, even if I am the #1 hit for “CNE Resume” on Google. But, mainly, it gives me a place to think out loud when no one is around for me to talk to about things. Blogging let’s me share my thoughts and dreams and, sometimes, fears with a larger world. A larger world that often responds with surprising kindness and sympathy, I might add. It’s my way of reaching out to fellow geeks who are stuggling with their own careers or lives and offer a bit of hope that they’re not alone.
Also, it’s a way for me to create a bit of immortality. To feel like a part of me will go on beyond my own limited life. To get my words and thoughts out into a larger world so that I might be remembered and understood.
So, why do you all read my blog? And, if you keep one, why do you blog?


Google Ads

Filed under: Art,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:18 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

You may have noticed a change or two…

Namely, I’ve added small Google ads to my blog. Why? Well, for one thing, this site doesn’t pay for itself. That means that I spend, roughly, $35 per month to maintain this site, as well as my others. (I have several sites, including HavePalmWillTravel and Fantasist.net, and I support the backend for my wife at Babydoll’s Closet. Heh, I like the idea of supporting her “backend”!) But, still, that all costs money. So, I’m running ads now. So far, I’ve made less than $10 in the past month. But, I’m hoping that will improve. Now, all I ask is that if you found anything on any of our websites helpfull, funny, or cool, just click on an ad or two. I figure if I can make even $15/month, I’m ahead of the game.

Anyway, that’s why I’m doing it. We now return to our regular blogging.


Religious Science Fiction

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fiction,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:48 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Yes, it really does exist!

And, some of it is pretty good. What, you don’t believe me? Well, there’s a website dedicated to that very subject, Adherents.com. They list pretty much all the big hitters, both in science-fiction and religion. You can search here based on author, religious affiliation, and title. It’s really fascinating to see what some of my favorite authors think about religion and how it fits into their work. Or, doesn’t, as the case may be.

I did find it interesting that two notables were apparently left out. First, there was Single Combat by Dean Ing, which has numerous references to the Mormons/Latter-Day Saints. Second, there was The Man of Gold, Flamesong, and the rest by M.A.R. Barker. These don’t reference any particular existing religion, but religion is a central theme in all his books and his created religions are influenced by the Mayan, Incan, and East Indian religions. In fact, Professor Barker has written at least one article about the role religion plays in fantastic fiction and role-playing games. Fascinating stuff!

In any case, it struck me as an interesting website. Well worth a look. (And, worth mentioning twice, because this also appeared on my other website, Fantasist.net!)

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